Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway to close

The Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway (Photo: KATV)

A Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway is closing as the paper-products giant restructures its business.

Arkansas Economic Development Council Director Mike Preston confirmed Thursday that operations at the facility will be phased out in the coming years. Preston said plant will be closed permanently by 2021.

About 350 jobs will be lost.

Kimberly-Clark announced in January it would restructure its business in an effort to improve overall efficiency, which required slashing 5,000 jobs worldwide. This included closing two facilities in Wisconsin. In an effort to keep one of the facilities open, Wisconsin leaders offered the company tax breaks. Back in November, Kimberly-Clark vice president John Deitrich said the Wisconsin tax break bill would keep the company's plant open in that state but it would close a plant in Arkansas.

Kimberly-Clark and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation agreed that the company will be provided up to $28 million in tax incentives over five years to keep that plant open.

Arkansas leaders tried to save the Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway but the state was not able to come up with incentives similar to what Wisconsin offered the company, Preston said.

"We want to make sure our tax dollars are spent as judiciously as possible," said Preston. "When we looked at and evaluated this project we put forward what we thought was an aggressive, but fiscally responsible package."

"This difficult decision was made after the company agreed to the terms of an incentive agreement through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation that, as well as negotiated terms with the union, will enable the company’s Cold Spring facility in Wisconsin to remain open," said the media relations team for Kimberly-Clark.

Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said in a statement that the city "will do everything we can to help the dedicated employees of Kimberly-Clark find a new place to earn a living so they can care for their families."

"My first concern is with the employees and their families," the statement says. "Hopefully, other opportunities and prospects will open in the future. Conway remains a desirable place for industry. We have a tremendous workforce and we have a lot to offer as a city."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is disappointed in Kimberly-Clark's decision but that help would be available for its Conway workers.

"We have all worked very aggressively to retain the Kimberly-Clark Conway facility jobs," Hutchinson said. "I am disappointed for the Conway workers and families that the company made the decision to close the Conway facility. It appears the historic ties of the company with Wisconsin, along with the union-wage cuts and cash incentives from the state, tilted the balance in favor of Wisconsin.

"The central Arkansas labor market has thousands of job openings, and I am directing my Department of Workforce Services to provide maximum assistance to Kimberly-Clark employees in any needed training or job-location assistance."

Jamie Gates with the Conway Development Corporation calls the plant's closure a blow to the city's economy, but says CDC will "immediately begin marketing this available workforce," and the modern manufacturing facility that will be left empty by within the next 18-24 months.

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