Walker says he wants KC deal to be his ‘legacy’

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants the new deal with Kimberly-Clark — one of the last actions he’ll take in the waning days of his administration — to be his legacy.

The guv joined Kimberly-Clark officials and state lawmakers yesterday to announce the up to $28 million incentive package to keep open the Cold Spring facility in Fox Crossing. The news came nearly a year after the company initially announced the plant, as well as another in the area, would be closed.

Others questioned directing taxpayer dollars to an international company that reported an operating profit of almost $3.3 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, Gov.-elect Tony Evers didn’t directly address the details of the incentive package. But he used the announcement to knock the extraordinary session bills Republicans approved last week and accused Republicans of playing “politics with the issue for months, leaving Kimberly-Clark workers and their families in the dark and uncertain about their futures.”

Walker, speaking at a news conference at the Fox Valley plant yesterday, described his efforts this way: to “protect these kind of jobs, not as a handout.”

“To me, if there was any talk about a legacy, I want this to be my legacy,” he said.

The deal comes after a bill that would offer the company tax incentives to keep open the plant stalled in the Senate, after clearing the Assembly in February. In the days since, Walker has repeatedly stated his commitment to saving the 388 jobs remaining at the facility.

Referencing his pledge to keep the facility open, Walker noted he’s told reporters this week he’ll work til the end of his term to pull together an agreement.

“I don’t care if it’s the last thing they do,” he said. “I don’t care if they’re dragging me down the hall, we’re going to find some way to save the jobs at Kimberly-Clark, because it’s just that important.”

He also credited Kimberly-Clark for giving the state time to negotiate, saying company officials allowed the state to first pitch them a plan to keep the facilities open near the start of 2018, and then continued providing lawmakers and the administration more time to finalize an agreement as the year progressed.

The company previously set a Sept. 30 deadline for legislative action on the original package. But the deadline passed without action, though Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced days later the Legislature would call an extraordinary session to take up the bill after the election.

“They’re putting a stake down,” Walker said. “This company, Kimberly-Clark, is putting a stake in the ground and saying, ‘We’re looking to expand our operations, we’re investing in our technology, we’re doing things that are going to make us excel and you’re the team to make that happen.'”

On the same day Walker joined others in announcing the Cold Spring plant will stay open, Kimberly-Clark told employees at a Conway, Ark., facility that that it will close no later than 2021. The plant, which now has 344 employees, made similar products to those produced at Cold Spring.

“This difficult decision was made after the company agreed to the terms of an incentive agreement through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation that, as well as negotiated terms with the union, will enable the company’s Cold Spring facility in Wisconsin to remain open,” a Kimberly-Clark spokesman said.

Under the deal announced yesterday, Kimberly-Clark will receive up to $28 million over five years if it hits certain benchmarks.

They include:

*retaining 388 manufacturing jobs at Cold Spring, with an annual payroll of more than $30 million at the facility, along with keeping its workforce in Wisconsin at the some 2,400 employees now employed at different facilities. According to WEDC, Kimberly-Clark would have to hit both benchmarks in each of the five years to be eligible for the tax credits for job retention. Over the five years, those credits would total $5.5 million.

*making at least $200 million in capital investments at the Cold Spring facility over that period. Those credits would hit a maximum of $20 million over the five years.

*hitting targets for goods and services purchased from Wisconsin companies. Those credits would be worth up to $2.5 million.

Kimberly-Clark also must first meet the terms of the agreement and provide documentation to the state before receiving the credits, which would have annual caps. That means, for example, the company couldn’t qualify for all $20 million in credits for capital investment in one year.

See more at WisPolitics.com: http://www.wispolitics.com/2018/thu-pm-update-walker-says-he-wants-k-c-deal-to-be-his-legacy/