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The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is working with leaders at Kimberly-Clark Corp. to develop an incentive package to try to keep the company's Conway plant open, the commission said Friday.

Kimberly-Clark informed its employees in Conway on Thursday and Friday that the company is considering closing the mill, said Terry Balluck, a Kimberly-Clark spokesman. The plant has about 350 workers.

"Kimberly-Clark discussed with its employees at Conway the potential for the facility to close based on meeting the challenging objectives of its global restructuring program," Balluck said Friday. "At this time, the company has not made a final decision related to this facility."

Arkansas is evaluating what it can do to keep the Conway plant open, said Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The state is working with Conway to decide what incentives could be offered to Kimberly-Clark, Preston said.

"We're trying to come up with an assessment of what we think would be fair for the state, the community and for the taxpayer, but also enticing enough for the company to want to stay," Preston said.

Everything is on the table in the negotiations, said Jamie Gates, executive vice president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce.

"We're going to use every tool available to compete for these jobs," Gates said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said it was disappointing to hear that Kimberly-Clark is considering closing its Conway facility.

"We want to assure our workers in Conway and our citizens that we are doing everything we can to reverse the company's decision," Hutchinson said in a prepared statement. "Kimberly-Clark has had a presence in Conway for almost half a century and has invested heavily in the community there. The Conway plant has historically performed well, and the products manufactured here are likely to remain in demand."

Arkansas has advantages for Kimberly-Clark, the governor said.

"Arkansas is a right-to-work state with lower costs of doing business than many states where [Kimberly-Clark] has operations," Hutchinson said.

Kimberly-Clark's mill in Maumelle has not been targeted for possible closure, said Judy Keller, executive director of economic development in Maumelle. That plant has about 300 employees.

Irving, Texas-based Kimberly-Clark makes products such as Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Kotex and Depend brands.

To lower costs worldwide, Kimberly-Clark said in January that it would eliminate 5,000 to 5,500 jobs -- about 12 percent to 13 percent of its employees -- and close 10 plants by the end of 2020. Kimberly-Clark expects the restructuring to cost $1.7 billion to $1.9 billion and to affect the company in all of its major global areas, according to its regulatory filings.

In late January, Kimberly-Clark said it would close two plants in Wisconsin, cutting 600 jobs. One is a sister plant of the Conway facility, making similar products, Preston said.

The Wisconsin Legislature proposed an incentive package to ensure the plants would remain open. But the Legislature still has not passed the bill.

"With a large incentive deal and pressure from the [plant's] unions, including a renegotiated labor contract, [Kimberly-Clark is] now considering keeping the Wisconsin [plants] open and shutting the Conway facility," said Brandi Hinkle, a spokesman for the state commission.

But Kimberly-Clark has not made a decision about the Wisconsin plants, Preston said.

Kimberly-Clark has been in Conway for about 50 years. It has been a part of the fabric of Conway, said Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry.

"They are a vital part of our community," Castleberry said. "Hopefully they will continue operations in our city well into the future."

Shares of Kimberly-Clark rose 49 cents to close Friday at $105.62 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The share price has lost about 13 percent of its value this year.

Business on 07/14/2018

Print Headline: Agency aims to entice Conway plant to stay

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  • RBear
    July 14, 2018 at 5:58 a.m.

    Yep, Trump's economic miracle comes to AR as we see another plant in jeopardy of closing. WI's Republican governor is notorious for giving away the state to get a promise of jobs even if some of those jobs don't materialize. Such is the case here. I hope K-C stays, but I also hope we don't give away some of the taxpayer resources to retain 360 jobs.

  • woowhoo
    July 14, 2018 at 7:06 a.m.

    Tax breaks from trump, now they blackmail state and local economic development folks into additional incentives. Aint corporate welfare grand!

    July 14, 2018 at 3:55 p.m.

    Woo Hoo, The Rich and Powerful get Larger Tax Cuts and Bigger incentives to stay. In the State of Arkansas and most other states the Rich Get richer and BIG BUSINESS DICTATES. The poor and middle class can Take on the ever increasing tax burden, Raise the Sales tax again, That hits the Poor Man the Hardest.

  • LRCrookAttorney
    July 14, 2018 at 4:05 p.m.

    Then the poor man has a company to work for and pay those higher tax burdens. If K-C left, I imagine those 700 workers would be very happy to pay a little higher tax burden in trade for a job to pay those taxes and feed, house and support their families. No tax breaks for the big guys and they leave and take their business someplace that will give it to them.

  • Dogpatch
    July 21, 2018 at 2:52 a.m.

    Its amazing what you Democrsts will bitch about. You have no clue how to keep a business staying in Arkansas and keeping 300-600 employed. You Democrats want to run all the manufacturers out of the state and out of the country. (Thanks Barrack, our negro Muslim who nearly gave us away). Giving incentives is a way to help protect the corporations investment and help them make s profit. All you Democrat/union guys would rather run a company out of business. Then sit around wondering why no one is working. You dumb arses realize your socialist programs don’t work. That’s why I quit being a Democrat. Fortunately I got a college education and it taught me how to work and invest. I have my own corporation now and don’t need help. That’s fine with me. You think KC should invest millions and when times get tough they should give all that to the state or lose that investment. Thats why all of you get on here and bitch. You want something for nothing. Typical Democrats all mouth and no work. That’s why Arkansas is always close to last. Now we’re gettig rid of that old Socialist group like you and turning our state around. Oh yes. Wisconsin is finally getting away from their Democrat leanings from
    The past. Governor Walker had finally turned that state around into a properly run state. Go back to your sit spit and whittle group. You’re losers always have and always will be. Thank God for President Trump. You guys can go back to boo’ing God. You’re heathens when it comes down to the truth.