Walker: ‘Nothing to do with Wisconsin’ in Oscar Mayer decision

Gov. Scott Walker says Oscar Mayer ending its operations in Madison has “nothing to do with Wisconsin.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Walker pointed to a decision from Kraft Heinz, which owns Oscar Mayer, to close six other manufacturing plants in North America after a merger between Kraft and Heinz earlier this year. Kraft Heinz is co-owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

“It’s unfortunate that you’ve got corporate decisions made by people like Warren Buffett and others, not just here, but across the country, [they] are making these sort of decisions,” Walker said before speaking at the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium in Monona Terrace.

Walker said he found out about the closing this week, just like Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. Kraft Heinz on Wednesday announced ending Oscar Mayer’s operations in Madison would affect about 1,000 employees.

“It’s one of those where you’ll have to ask people like Mr. Buffett and others whose company engineered this decision because it’s not something they even made contact with us [on],” Walker said.

WEDC spokesman Steven Michels said Kraft had earlier declined nearly $195,000 in tax credits.

He also said WEDC reached out to Kraft Heinz on Wednesday to see if the state could do anything to reverse the decision. But Michels said the company “indicated their decision followed an in-depth analysis of their global operations and was final.”

WEDC is now working with its partners in the area to see how they can help workers land new jobs, Michels said.

In July 2013, the agency had worked with Kraft Foods Group before the merger to potentially award tax credits for a planned investment in the Madison offices. But the company later told WEDC it wouldn’t use $194,800 in eligible tax credits over three years.

“In April 2014 Kraft Foods informed WEDC they would not be able to utilize the tax credits and voluntarily withdrew from the award, but communicated at the time they appreciated our support and would continue to partner with WEDC across the State of Wisconsin,” Michels said.

A Kraft Heinz spokesman didn’t respond to questions regarding the company’s discussions with WEDC.

— By Polo Rocha