THU AM News: Kimberly-Clark sends 250 jobs to Chicago; Dairy Hub money not likely in budget

— Just over two years after the state agreed to give Kimberly-Clark $28 million in grants, the company announced it’s sending more than 250 office jobs to Chicago.

The company, founded in Neenah, plans to open a new commercial center in Chicago by the first quarter of 2022. There it will send 250 positions in sales, marketing and management.

The Neenah campus will become the “North American Innovation, Technology and Supply Center.” More than 2,500 positions will remain in Wisconsin. The manufacturing sites in the state are unaffected by the change.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is reviewing its contract with the global paper product manufacturer to determine how the move affects the company’s eligibility for job retention tax incentives.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker made the $28 million deal with Kimberly-Clark in late 2018. Under the agreement, the company would have to retain 388 jobs through 2023 and make at least $200 million in investments at the Cold Springs facility near Neenah in that time.

According to company spokeswoman Jessica Riley, Kimberly-Clark is compliant with the terms of the agreement with WEDC and remains committed to the agreement with the state.

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes told “It is disappointing that Kimberly Clark has chosen to move these jobs out of … Wisconsin, especially as our state is just beginning to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Riley said the new commercial center in Chicago was vital to Kimberly-Clark’s long-term growth as it puts the company closer to retail partners, marketing and digital agencies already in Chicago.

— Funding the UW Dairy Innovation Hub has bipartisan support from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, but the panel will have to hash out the funding level. 

The Dairy Business Association has voiced support for maintaining annual funding of $7.8 million per year in the coming biennial budget for the hub located across three campuses: UW-Madison, UW-River Falls and UW-Platteville. 

In yesterday’s DBA Dairy Day legislative panel, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said she needs to see more value coming from the hub before handing it money in the state budget. 

“I think we took a big kind of leap of faith doing the dairy hub,” the Finance Committee vice-chair said. “Now that it exists, I think it’s important to show value.”

While the highlights from the hub’s first annual report “are good,” Loudenbeck said she needs “a little bit more.” She explained that her non-farm colleagues don’t understand the value the hub brings compared to other conservation or innovation efforts happening statewide, such as with UW-Extension. 

She added funding the hub outside of the budget has more merit. Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, agreed that individual funding decisions are more feasible rather than funding the hub in the biennial budget. 

Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said funding should continue for the hub, but warned that spending should wait until the American Rescue Plan Act dollars coming to Wisconsin are accounted for. 

“That would be a good place for some of the ARPA funds if we’re allowed to use them,” said Bernier, who serves on JFC. She also pitched one-time funding for the hub until pandemic implications are more clear.

Another Finance Committee member, Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, said she hopes the hub funding is not one-time money and that the Legislature can make the commitment now. 

— More than a quarter of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

While that’s a new milestone for the Badger State, it’s still a ways from herd immunity. State officials have said that would come when 80 percent of the population is fully protected from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent of residents have at least started their vaccine process. More than 2.2 million people have gotten at least one dose of either the single-dose Johnson & Johnson or the two-dose series of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. 

More than 70 percent of Wisconsinites age 65 and older have been fully vaccinated, and nearly 79 percent have received their first dose.

Wisconsin has put more than 3.6 million shots in people’s arms. It ranks in the top 10 for the rate it’s administered available vaccine doses, according to national media outlet Bloomberg.

— The state Senate has approved Assembly bills to ban mandatory vaccines for COVID-19 and to restrict officials’ ability to limit meetings in houses of worship to control the pandemic.

No member rose to debate the bills, which passed on voice vote. They next head to Gov. Tony Evers, who is expected to veto them.

Under current law, the Department of Health Services and local health officers have powers to control communicable diseases, including what is “reasonable and necessary.” During a declared state of emergency, DHS may order an individual to receive a vaccination unless it is likely to lead to serious harm or if the person has religious or conscience objections.

AB 23 would bar mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19 or any variants or mutations.

Meanwhile, AB 23 would prohibit officials from restricting meetings in houses of worship or closing them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

— But as the state’s vaccinations increase, so are its COVID-19 cases.

Wisconsin reported 929 new COVID-19 cases coming into today and five new deaths from the virus, according to the DHS.

The seven-day average for cases is 823 cases per day, the highest average in over two months. 

The seven-day average for coronavirus deaths remains at six deaths per day. That average has not surpassed six deaths since mid-March, but it had dropped to an eight-month low of three deaths per day in late March. 

The state reports 8,844 active cases, 587,561 cases since the start of the pandemic and 6,695 total deaths.

— Native American communities in Wisconsin have started to take control over their health by controlling their food supply and by returning to traditional foods.

Tribes, such as the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, receive food from the USDA as part of treaty agreements. That food is highly processed, contributing to the Menominee reservation having the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease in Wisconsin, according to Gary Besaw the director of agriculture, food systems and food distribution for the tribe.

Besaw was a panelist during the UW Global Health Symposium yesterday. This year’s symposium included a focused discussion on health and food issues facing indigenous communities.

The good news is that diabetes rates among Native American and Alaskan populations have started to decrease since 2013, according to Whitney Schreiber, a diabetes specialist at the Stockbridge-Munsee Health and Wellness Center in central Wisconsin. 

Citing a 2020 study from the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, Schreiber said from 2013 to 2017 the percentage of the Native Americans and Alaskan population with diabetes has dropped from 15.4 percent to 14.6 percent. No other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. had a drop in diabetes prevalence during that time period.

Read the full story at 


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