Even though Oscar Mayer parent company Kraft Heinz has said a decision to close its Madison plant is a done deal, Governor Scott Walker is not giving up hope that new life can be breathed into the facility.
Kraft Heinz informed the state this week that its Madison plant and six others in North America will shut down over the next two years. During a stop in Green Bay Friday, Walker said the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation reached out to the company right away after the announcement, and was given the impression that the decision was based on an overall strategy by the company. Walker said it appears to be final, but “I’m not willing to accept that.”
The governor indicated he wants to speak directly with company officials about what the state can do to possibly change their mind, or to keep the facility operating. “I’ve reached out and asked for a meeting with leadership at Kraft Heinz to see if there’s anything else that we can do,” Walker told reporters.
AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker discusses future of Madison Oscar Mayer plant (1:37)
A spokesman with Kraft Heinz on Friday said they have been in contact with the governor, and will work with the state to find a buyer for the Madison plant that could keep it open. Michael Mullin also said that process is just beginning though, and company “will keep our employees informed as it progresses.”
Walker also responded to criticism from Democrats, who have questioned why the state was unaware that Oscar Mayer was considering leaving the state. The governor redirected the question to speak about Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who met with Kraft Heinz officials earlier this year. “If Mayor Soglin was concerned about the possibility of losing jobs at Oscar Mayer after the August meeting, why did he not contact the state for help?” Walker asked in a letter he sent to Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) on Friday.
Soglin was unavailable to respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The Madison Oscar Mayer plant employs over a thousand people. If the state is unable to keep those jobs in place, Walker said the state Department of Workforce Development will be ready to help those affected by the closing to find other good-paying work in the area.
Jeff Flynt at WTAQ contributed to this report.