Walker’s plan for Kimberly-Clark lauded by Fox Cities economic developer

Peter Thillman, vice president of economic development at Fox Cities Regional Partnership, says matching Foxconn incentives for Kimberly-Clark would go “a long way in changing the conversation” surrounding the company’s plans.

“When Kimberly-Clark announced a 10 percent downsizing corporate-wide, we expected some impact,” he said yesterday at a public hearing on a bill to save 600 jobs. “We did not anticipate the elimination of all the manufacturing facilities in the Fox Valley.”

He also said he thought the bill could “tip the scale” for the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing, which makes personal care products and employs around 500, noting the plant features “brand new investments” and is “one of the best facilities in their corporation.”

Democrats criticized the GOP effort as an election-year ploy in yesterday’s hearing. But the bill’s authors, along with various economic development officials, countered that the move was a way to give WEDC the tools it needs as it works to keep 600-plus jobs in the Fox Valley.

Kimberly-Clark at the end of last month announced it would close two plants in the Fox Valley. Less than a week later, Gov. Scott Walker called for legislation to increase tax credits for job retention to 17 percent of a company’s payroll, up from the current 7 percent. The bill was introduced last week.

In addition to the job retention credits, the paper manufacturer would also get refundable tax credits for 15 percent of capital expenditures — up from the standard 10 percent — over a five-year period, as well as a five-year sales tax exemption on those capital expenditures.

That language, bill co-author Senate President Roger Roth said, would hopefully encourage Kimberly-Clark to consider additional capital investments in their current facilities.

“Our hope for putting this capital expenditure tax credit in here is that they’ll look at the Fox Valley as a place they want to expand their footprint and operation,” the Appleton Republican said.

Still, committee Dems questioned whether Kimberly-Clark was interested in the incentives to begin with.

Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, said extending Foxconn incentives to Kimberly-Clark didn’t make sense when considering Foxconn had pledged to bring new jobs and new technology to the state.

“I really think you’re comparing apples to oranges when you’re comparing Foxconn to this facility,” he said.