Kimberly-Clark ready to consider incentives package from state

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FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) - Local United Steelworkers union members have agreed to support legislation that would offer Kimberly-Clark incentives to keep at least one plant open in Northeast Wisconsin.

Kimberly-Clark says USW Local 2-482 informed the company that members had ratified the agreement.

Kimberly-Clark says it is now "in position" to consider an incentives package that could possibly save hundreds of jobs that would have been lost to a plant closure in the Neenah area.

The company calls it an "important step in the bargaining process."

The agreement is dependent on legislature and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Last spring, State Senate President Roger Roth sponsored a bill that would give Kimberly-Clark a jobs tax credit worth $100 million and $115 million over 15 years. It passed the Assembly, but the Senateheld off on passing it until it could hear more from Kimberly-Clark.

"Informally adjourned here at the end of the year. We always had the opportunity to come back in during an extraordinary session. We can pick that bill up right where we left it," Sen. Roth says.

In January, K-C announced it planned to close the Neenah Nonwovens facility as part of global restructuring that includes cutting 5,000 to 5,550 jobs, or 12-13 percent of its workforce.

The paper giant also indicated it considered closing the Cold Spring facility in Fox Crossing.

"We will not comment further on the bargain, tentative agreement or a final decision regarding the Neenah Cold Spring facility until it is appropriate to do so," reads a statement from Kimberly-Clark.

"Regarding the Neenah Nonwovens facility, the company announced in January its plans to close the facility, and we continue to work with leadership and the employees there on finalizing this closure."

Sen. Roth praised the agreement.

“This is great news for the workers at Kimberly-Clark and for the paper industry here in Wisconsin," Roth, an Appleton Republican, said in a statement. "I want to thank both Kimberly-Clark and the union for their hard work in reaching an agreement and now I will be working with Majority Leader Fitzgerald and members to help get the Senate in a position to come back in and pass this important legislation.”

Roth hopes the bill gets support from Democrats.

Republicans hold a three-seat majority in the State Senate.

Earlier this year, Democrats pushed their own plan to invest $60 million to stabilize and modernize the paper industry. That plan did not take off in the legislature.

State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) was a sponsor of that bill. We asked if he supports Sen. Roth's bill.

"While I am pleased to hear that there is the possibility of keeping the Cold Springs and Neenah Nonwovens facilities, it would be premature to comment until we learn more about the contract and the specifics of any legislation," Hansen says.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he's ready to work with legislative leaders on the incentives plan.

“The agreement reached between Kimberly-Clark and the United Steelworkers is outstanding news, and we look forward to working with Senate leaders and the company to keep hundreds of good-paying, family-supporting jobs in the Fox Valley," Walker said.

On Tuesday, Kimberly-Clark released its second quarter 2018 results. It reports net sales of $4.6 billion, up one percent from this time last year.

The company's goal is finishing out the year with earnings per share of $6.60 to $6.80.