Kimberly-Clark to consider tax incentives to keep Fox Crossing plant open

A view of Kimberly-Clark's Cold Spring Facility in Fox Crossing, Jan. 31, 2018. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

FOX CROSSING, Wis. (WLUK) -- There's new hope that Kimberly-Clark may keep its Cold Spring facility open.

The plant in Fox Crossing is one of two Fox Valley locations the company had been planning to close. However, in February, state lawmakers developed a package of a tax incentives similar to what was used to lure Foxconn to build a plant in Racine County. The Assembly passed it, 56-37. However, without any commitment from Kimberly-Clark that passing the legislation would result in the jobs being saved, the Senate tabled the bill.

Kimberly-Clark's position on the Cold Spring facility Tuesday follows a new labor agreement ratified Monday night by United Steelworkers. In April, union member Karmen Jones described concessions being negotiated at that time as cutting the company's average labor costs by more than $20,000 per person.

"With the ratified agreement, the company will advise the State of Wisconsin that it is now in a position to commit to using the incentives if the proposed legislation is passed and an agreement with (the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation) is reached," a company spokesperson said in an email to FOX 11. "These incentives, together with the new agreement, allow the company to better meet some of the challenging objectives of our global restructuring program."

According to The Associated Press, union president Dave Breckheimer says the new agreement provides Kimberly-Clark with concessions aimed at keeping Cold Spring in operation.

Breckheimer did not provide much detail on the concessions to FOX 11, but he said workers will be affected differently, in terms of cutting labor costs.

State Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, said in a statement Tuesday he would work with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to call a special session of the Senate to vote on the tax incentives. The Senate is not scheduled to return to its regular session until January.

In Feburary, state lawmakers created a tax incentives package, in hopes of saving jobs. It would offer Kimberly Clark a 17% tax credit, which is more than double the 7% currently allowed by the state.

"I do think we're going to need Democrat votes. I think it's important when we're coming to save a company like Kimberly-Clark, to save their presence here and to save these high paying union jobs," Roth said.

“WEDC is pleased Kimberly-Clark has reached an agreement with the United Steelworkers that would ensure the company’s Cold Spring facility remains in operation," WEDC Secretary Mark Hogan said in a statement. "WEDC has had productive conversations with the company since February regarding how the legislation to provide Kimberly-Clark with state incentives would work with WEDC’s programs. We look forward to working with the company, (Gov. Scott Walker) and state legislators to find a path forward to secure Kimberly-Clark’s presence in Wisconsin for decades to come.”

“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 in a statement.

While the Cold Spring facility could stay open, plans to close the Neenah Nonwovens facility continue to move forward. The company says it is working with leadership and employees to finalize the closure.

About 450 people currently work at the Cold Spring facility and 90 at Neenah Nonwovens, down from about 600 earlier this year. In all, Kimberly-Clark has about 3,200 employees in the Fox Valley. According to the Fox Cities Regional Partnership, Kimberly-Clark is the third-largest employer in the Fox Valley. It would retain that spot even with the loss of more than 500 jobs.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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