Gov. Scott Walker and officials of Green Bay Packaging Inc. last week released a statement announcing a $500 million dollar investment in a new Northeast Wisconsin facility that would bring in 200 jobs around the state. However, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin criticized Walker’s involvement in the announcement, calling it a move to “distract attention,” while also claiming that Walker was an “awful failure on jobs.” However, the workforce shortage in Wisconsin would prove otherwise.
According to a press release, Walker and Green Bay Packing Inc. announced an investment of $500 million to create a new recycled paper mill and an expansion of the company’s shipping container division. This investment would mean an additional 200 jobs for Wisconsinites, according to state Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay). The press release also highlighted that the construction of the mill has the potential to “directly and indirectly support more than 3,000 jobs in the Green Bay region and have a $257 million economic impact on the region. The construction phase could also generate about $10 million of additional tax revenue for the state.”
Byran Hollenbach, Executive Vice President of Green Bay Packaging, highlighted how this investment will double Green Bay’s Packaging’s paper production capabilities in a press release:
“The decision to build the new 100 percent recycled paper machine in Green Bay will preserve more than 1,100 Green Bay Packaging jobs across Brown County and position the company to grow its local workforce in the coming years.”
“The new Green Bay Mill will more than double Green Bay Packaging’s paper production capabilities, resulting in a positive impact on Wisconsin’s transportation industry by increasing the amount of freight coming to and from the company each day. The new Green Bay Mill will also continue to advance Green Bay Packaging’s longtime commitment to be an industry leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability as it will be one of the most environmentally friendly mills in the country.”
Despite news of the expansion, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin criticized Walker and stated that this was, “an attempt to cover his job failure in Wisconsin.” DPW Communication Director Melanie Conklin went further, labeling Walker as “far right” with “anti-worker policies” in a statement included on the DPW press release:
“Scott Walker has been a disastrous governor for Wisconsin jobs. If Wisconsin had simply kept up with the hiring pace of rest of the nation, we’d have another 131,000 jobs. Instead, Wisconsin workers came up short because of Walker.
“Walker’s far-right, anti-worker policies and giveaways to billionaires and mega corporations like Foxconn have been terrible for Wisconsin and have not created the jobs our families need. Walker always puts own personal ambitions before the needs of regular Wisconsinites for too long. Walker has broken his promises to Wisconsin’s voters, and we cannot afford another four years.”
Despite the DPW’s claims of a disappointing Walker job creation performance, Wisconsin is in the midst of a worker shortage. News Watch 12 reported that “many companies in the Northwoods know they could expand, except for one thing. There aren’t enough skilled workers to go around,” and that, “Sometimes, well-paying manufacturing jobs go unfilled for months.”
The story highlighted the shortage of welders in the north, reporting that, “one Rhinelander plant manager said eight welding jobs have been open since the fall. A welding instructor says he gets calls every day, looking for welders.”
Wisconsin Pubic Radio reported that a survey conducted by the Milwaukee-based Manpower Group found that 46 percent of employers across the country reported having trouble finding workers, and that “35 percent of companies in the Milwaukee metro area plan to add to their payrolls in the next three months and just two percent plan to cut staffing levels.” Amber Laurent, a regional director for Manpower Group in Wisconsin told Wisconsin Public Radio that employers are “feeling anxious about filling those openings” and that the hiring outlook doesn’t include any companies moving into the state, including Foxconn.
Despite the DPW’s criticism of Walker’s announcement of the expansion, many support the investment, such as Green Bay Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) who spoke highly of the project in a press release:
“This project, which will be the largest economic development project in Brown County history, will help our region continue to grow and transform. Green Bay Packaging could have built a new facility anywhere, but their recommitment to Northeast Wisconsin is just the latest example in a trend of new economic development projects proving that our state’s business climate is favorable and our workforce is strong.”
Brett Healy of the MacIver Institute also told Media Trackers Communication Director Jerry Bader that the project is a clear indicator that Walker’s policies are working and criticized the DPW response in a podcast:
“They (DPW) almost seem to be apologizing or criticizing the creation of jobs which is just unthinkable.
I think an announcement like this has a really deep subtle meaning when people see that on the news tonight, tomorrow, this week, that the policies of Governor Walker are working.”