Walker says there's a future for the papermaking industry in Fox Valley

Gov Scott Walker (Photo courtesy Walker campaign)

(WLUK) -- As the papermaking industry continues to take a hit, that has the governor and the Outagamie County Executive discussing but not necessarily agreeing on ways to keep the paper industry alive.

Look close enough and you'll see a rich history of papermaking in the Fox Valley.

Appleton Coated and other companies in the valley have cut jobs.

"There have been at least 1,400 paper jobs lost," said Tom Nelson, Outagamie County Executive.

Nelson wants to see the paper industry continue to thrive in the valley, with the ability to adapt to a changing market.

And to do that, at least one idea comes to Nelson's mind.

"Even though Amazon is not necessarily here in Wisconsin, the paper industry can play an absolute pivotal role in the growth of that company and that's through brown paper grades. So, companies like Appleton Coated have already begun to transition from just white paper grades to brown paper grades," Nelson said.

Since last fall, Nelson has proposed what he's calling "Papermaker fund."

"It would be funded by one percent of what the state has already spent on Foxconn which is about $3 billion. One percent of $3 billion is about $30 million. That fund could be granted to paper companies who perhaps want to make a capital investment, who want to retrofit their equipment, make a transition to brown paper grade," Nelson said.

While in Green Bay Friday, FOX 11 asked Gov. Scott Walker about Nelson's proposed fund.

"He wants to create a fund without any attachment to jobs. We say, we'll put up tax payers money if we can guarantee that will actually connect to jobs that are staying and growing in the state," said Walker.

The governor said he sees a place for the paper industry in the Fox Valley.

"With a strong economy, with good investments to companies that are tied into jobs we can help. What I prefer, that we keep every job that we have and just keep adding to it, absolutely and I'm going to fight every single day to make that happen," Walker said. "And, I'm going to fight every single day to make that happen. But, if we do have companies because of larger global issues eventually may decide to shift their workforce here, we believe that we've got the training and support."

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says Wisconsin is still the number one papermaking state producing $5.3 million tons of paper per year.

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