Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Job creator" Ariens closing down in Janesville, thousands of others in Wisconsin also losing work

For every tax-funded photo op that our Fair Governor makes at a campaign contributor "expanding business in Wisconsin," there are a number of job stories that don't get attention in the state. And sometimes there's good news and bad news at the same Wisconsin company.

For example, here's Ariens Company claiming some good news last week.
Outdoor power equipment company Ariens will be closing a plant in Nebraska, and moving the work to Wisconsin.

Ariens announced Thursday that nearly 200 employees at its Auburn, Nebraska plant will be affected.

Production will be moved to the company headquarters in Brillion, Wisconsin, as a way to hold down costs.

Workers in Nebraska can apply for positions at the Wisconsin plant, with the assistance of a relocation bonus.
Of course, it doesn’t say that there will actually be jobs added at the Ariens facility, just that they’ll be moving the work to Brillion. But it SOUNDS good and it SOUNDS like a Wisconsin business is expanding, which was the intent of the press release.

The bad news from Ariens came a few days later.
Ariens, a Brillion-based maker of garden tractors and snow throwers, said it is closing its Janesville facility, which includes a large distribution center, as it leaves the direct marketing field. The company got into direct marketing with its January 2014 purchase from W.W. Grainger Inc. of three brands providing equipment and supplies to niche professional markets.

Ariens said it has agreed to sell two of the three brands to separate buyers who will move the operations out of Wisconsin. The company said it “continues to explore options” to divest the third brand, Gempler’s, which sells equipment for agriculture, horticulture and grounds maintenance.

Ariens expects to begin cutting jobs by August 31 and finish by March 31, 2019.
And here’s the kicker for those two stories. Ariens CEO Dan Ariens is a former WEDC Board member and was just elected the Chairman of the Board at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce last December. And look at the sloppy wet kiss Mr. Ariens gave to the trickle-down policies of Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP at the time.
“I know that Governor Walker and pro-growth lawmakers are committed to improving our business climate and WMC will play a leading role in developing and advocating polices that create jobs,” Ariens said. “WMC members can provide the day-to-day economic reality of what’s happening in the towns and cities and workplace across Wisconsin, one job at a time.”
6 months later, I’d say the “job creators” at Ariens sure don’t seem to be doing so well on that front these days, given the announced layoffs of nearly 350 people at these plants in Nebraska and Janesville over the past week.

But Ariens isn’t the only Wisconsin company laying off these days. A quick look at the list of Wisconsin’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices shows two other Wisconsin businesses gave public notice of layoffs on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Roche will be closing its facility on the west side of Madison over the next 2 years, laying off 79 employees, with many of them being scientists and software engineers.

A DHL trucking facility is closing in Mequon, resulting in 59 workers losing their jobs in August, most of whom are forklift drivers.

In addition, there were WARN notices associated with 2 Wisconsin grocery stores that came out this week. The disruptions involve the Sentry on Janesville’s east side and the Piggly Wiggly in Menasha. In both cases, the WARN notices say that the new owners plan to keep the grocery stores operating at the site, and that seems better than the alternative. But come August, 49 people will still be laid off in Janesville and 69 in Menasha, and forced to reapply if they want to keep working at that store.

Also worth noting from the WARN page - a number of retail store closings and related major layoffs have happened or will happen this month. They include:

Bon-Ton Stores in 11 cities, and Milwaukee headquarters – 2,255 jobs

The JC Penney distribution center in Wauwatosa – 520 jobs

Final winding down at 8 Toys R’ Us stores – 326 jobs

American Girl facility in Wilmot – 185 jobs

That’s nearly 3,300 jobs in all, and while there are often other stores opening to replace some of these positions, I want to see what effect this’ll have on retail employment in the state for June and July. Especially given that seasonally-adjusted reports assume lots of Summer hiring, 3,300 layoffs in that sector will be a double-whammy for the jobs numbers.

Between this and the largest job losses in America for April and May, and it seems like things are getting shaky in the Wisconsin economy these days. That seems to be a bigger story that the state's low unemployment rate (a byproduct of people leaving the state and not being replaced), and no amount of press releases from WMC or photo ops from corporate puppets like Scott Walker changes that reality. I just wonder when the reality of our economic shakiness will hit the average voter in the face.


  1. If our "Open for Business-Jobs" Governor is performing this well at jobs, I can't wait to see what our "Education Governor is going to do to education.

    1. Amazing how his approval ratings and "Wisconsin is on the right track" numbers keep going up, isn't it? It's almost like you and your lovely blog host are clueless fuckwads or something!!

    2. Huh, the Bradley Foundation tells Charles Franklin to fill the MU Law poll with Republicans to help their boy Scotty, and this loser shows up again. Magic, isnt it?

      People dont want to admit the state they live in (and often grew up in) is failing. Same reason the average meatball Packer fan thinks the Green and Gold will ever lose before the game on Sunday. That wishing won't make it true, and makes the ultimate loss that much worse.

      Sooner or later, the reality will come to the door, be recognized, and be dealt with. PS- The "liberal" answer was preferred in every issue-based question in that GOP-leaning MU Poll.

  2. Credit where it's due, Walker and the Republicans jumped in front of a really great parade back in 2010.

    And incumbency is a great advantage when the economy isn't clobbering people.

    If things stay strong through November, I think Walker is going to be tough to beat - especially if Democrats persist in the sort of weak-ass campaign messaging I'm seeing.

    Democrats need to be bolder.

    Legalization of marijuana.
    Automatic voter registration.
    Improved election audits.
    Better urban/rural partnerships.
    The UW as a path for economic mobility.
    Trade\commodity issues.
    Labor issues - turn the immigratios issue around. Wisconsin does need young, working people, right?
    Increasing debt loads.
    Transportation funding.

    They need at least a few issues that resonate with people outside the urban areas.

  3. Not to be too cynical, Jake, but you "wonder when the reality of our economic shakiness will hit the average voter in the face."
    I'm not sure that that will ever happen. Trump will point his finger, say "Mexicans," and they'll forget all about the economic truth. Tell me I'm wrong.

    1. Oh, with some people that'll absolutely be true, but they're the 35%er types that aren't tough enough to admit they've voted wrong in the past, and aren't worth wasting time on.

      But a good number of persuadables and apathetic types will notice, and if even a fraction of them change their votes to Dem and/or start voting in midterm - Buy-bye Scotty!

      That's a big reason why Obama won by 14% in this state in 2008, and won 58 counties (I think).