Kimberly Clark and America’s Dairyland

Kimberly Clark and America’s Dairyland

Original Article by Ken Harwood

I am writing about two stories that point out how our economic development system and government could better serve the State. Both stories made headlines this week and I feel they are connected, in fact they should be very connected by the press. They are not...

Lets start with Kimberly-Clark, the company recently enacted a strategic initiative, Focus on Reducing Costs Everywhere or FORCE. And to force Wisconsin`s hand a decision was made to close a plant in either Wisconsin or Conway Arkansas. Governor Walker offered 28 Million dollars in tax credits (over 5 years) to keep the plant open in Fox Crossing (formerly  the Town of Menasha) and KC has agreed to keep the 388 jobs at the Wisconsin plant and make a 200 million dollar “investment” in infrastructure. Using the 388 figure that’s 72K per job although the State prefers to use the entire state KC employment base of 4,100 which lowers the figure to 7K per employee. It is important to note that no new jobs are guaranteed in Wisconsin. The plant in Arkansas will close and, while it is only speculation on my part, much of the 200 million in infrastructure will come from a transfer of the manufacturing and packaging equipment currently in Conway to Wisconsin.

While I am not opposed to working with KC, I still strongly suggest we would do far better as a State if we simply offered tax credits to any company expanding it’s employee base in the State and property tax credits for improvements yielding taxable infrastructure. I like the figure (for discussion’s sake) of 20K over 10 years for every new hire and 10% TIF for new buildings with a signed development agreement guaranteeing property tax value in hand. This would place Wisconsin much higher on the economic development scale nationwide than it is now. Also it would eliminate the political games now played to get any tax credits.  Wisconsin is ranked well bellow it’s development and growth potential, and that is after Foxconn is figured in.  We need to address the needs of all growing businesses in Wisconsin. We are not...

Now lets contrast the KC 388 figure with the 638 dairy farms that closed last year in the state. Wisconsin has gone from 16,000 dairy herds in 2004 to 8,000 in 2018 or a fifty percent reduction in family farms. In that same time frame we have added slightly to the total number of cows being milked (1.2 Million +).  How does this happen? Large corporate farms, milking thousands of cows, using far fewer employees per head, and waste management that spreads manure far beyond what is needed by the land for nutrition exponentially reduces costs. Small farms can not compete. Our legislature ignores this problem because we are talking about maybe 20K votes and very little contributions and most of that is coming from the corporate farms. Compare the KC 388 to the well over 1,000 farm jobs an I suggest it is fair to make the comparison.

This problem can also be easily fixed legislatively. If we require farms with more than, say, 1,000 head to digest their manure and heat the effluent to reduce phosphorous and pathogens we can create safer and better farms. We would be treating large farms like small cities which they are - even using the most conservative figures I can find. I am only addressing the highly concentrated waste stream of large farms because we have been using manure successfully on smaller farms for centuries with little ill effect. Digestion on larger farms should be a win win scenario for the State in that it protects our waterways and levels the playing field for smaller farms. Wisconsin was built by small farmers and addressing their decline should be at the top of the legislative agenda. It is not…

We can step away from politics and look at problems and solutions or we can listen to the paid professional lobbyists who represent a specific company or specific interest and address their very specific requests. We should not...


Ken Notes: This article Op/Ed may be reprinted or edited in any form without permission. Ken Harwood Advocate For Wisconsin, Editor WisconsinDevelopment.Com - 608.334.2174 - Albany/Madison Wisconsin

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- - Volume: 6 - WEEK: 100 Date: 12/3/2021 3:33:08 PM -