Kimberly-Clark Says It May Close Conway Plant

Kimberly-Clark Corp. officials told the Conway Chamber of Commerce late Thursday that the company is considering closing its mill in Conway.

The company, headquartered in Irving, Texas, makes paper products, including Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex and Depends brands.

In January, Kimberly-Clark announced its "2018 Global Restructuring Program" that is expected save up to $550 million a year by the end of 2021. The company said then that those savings would be driven by workforce reductions and manufacturing supply chain efficiencies. It expects to lay off 5,000-5,500 employees, or 12 to 13 percent of its workforce, and to close or sell 10 manufacturing facilities.

Kimberly-Clark also told Arkansas media outlets in January that its plants in Conway and Maumelle employ about 700 people.

Terry Balluck, a spokesperson for Kimberly-Clark, confirmed Friday that the Conway plant could close to meet the restructuring program’s goals. He also said the company has not made a final decision.

“There are difficult decisions that accompany the program, and our focus remains on our employees, and treating them fairly and respectfully,” Balluck wrote in an email to Arkansas Business. “We will not comment further until a final decision has been made and it is appropriate to do so.”

Jamie Gates, executive vice president of the Conway Chamber, said earlier indications had led him to expect additional jobs at the Conway plant, not a shutdown.

 “This was a surprise to us because, if this were to go through, it would be a reversal of every signal and announcement that we’ve gotten by following this process since January, when the companywide reorganization was announced … We want to see the Conway facility grow through corporate consolidation, and that has happened here with Kimberly-Clark in the past.”

Gates also said the chamber had been in touch with Kimberly-Clark since before it announced the closure of a sister facility, the Cold Spring manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. “It seems as though either the Conway facility or the Cold Spring mill in Fox Crossing would close. Previously, they had announced it would be that mill,” he said.

“We’ve got almost a 50-year history with Kimberly-Clark," Gates said. "They’re a great and valued corporate citizen here. They’ve got a modern facility with excess capacity and a great business climate and labor climate. And so we’re convinced that this is, it always has been and still is, a good place for the company to grow.

“The fundamental strength of this facility, this business and labor climate and the history the company has in Conway gives great value to Kimberly-Clark and its shareholders. And we’re going to do everything we can, as an economic development organization, with the city and with the state, to keep this company growing here."