Governor Scott Walker spent some of the final hours prior to Tuesday’s recall election primary in southwest Wisconsin, which included a Monday afternoon visit to Rayovac in Fennimore.
Walker proclaimed the week of May 6–12 as “Manufacturing Awareness Week” to honor the contributions of Wisconsin’s many manufacturers in providing family-supporting jobs to nearly 450,000 Wisconsin citizens.
“Manufacturing has been and will continue to be an important part of Wisconsin’s economy,” Walker stated in a press release touting the event. “Last year I signed into law a manufacturing tax credit that will help create family-supporting jobs and continue to make Wisconsin more attractive to job creators long into the future.”
The Manufacturing Awareness Week coincides with the Milwaukee Manufacturing Career Expo, hosted by DWD on May 10 at the Exposition Center at State Fair Park. More than 60 employers with over 850 documented job openings have committed to participate in the Career Expo.
Walker toured the Spectrum Brands’ Rayovac facility, where 320 people are employed and three million batteries are made daily.
“I never realized all that went into making a battery, so it is kind of cool just to see that,” Walker said. “Another thing that was neat was talking to people. I ask people here and the other places I tour not only what they do but how many years they have worked at a company.
“I had a couple people tell me 27 years, one woman told me 36 years, and a couple others were 23 and 24 years.”
Spectrum Brands earlier this year chose not to move forward with plans to move its corporate headquarters to Florida and will instead stay in Wisconsin.
“We did a lot through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to make sure Spectrum Brands could stay in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “We are thrilled about that. They’ve got a great history in Wisconsin whether it’s been Dane County or down here in Fennimore.
“The fact that they can grow and expand...they are looking to add even more jobs between now and 2013, it’s a good sign.”
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in March. Walker noted the unemployment rate was about 7.5 percent when he took office.
“We’ve got a lot more work to be done,” Walker said. “We’ve got a goal to help the people of this state to create 250,000 jobs. We’re still aiming to get that by 2015.
“What it is going to take is more businesses like Rayovac making a commitment and sending that message not just to larger companies like them but to small businesses that Wisconsin is a good place to do business and we are doing our best to make that case.”
Walker visited a cheese maker in Monroe earlier in the day Monday. If his schedule allows, he makes similar trips multiple times each week.
“Manufacturing, small business, farm trips, we mix it up, I probably get out three or four times a week to different places,” Walker said. “I enjoy seeing how we make things..there are some very interesting things we make here in the state of Wisconsin.
“We will keep coming back to places all around the state that put people to work.”
When asked by Queen B Radio’s Doug Wagen if he cared who won Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Walker said he did not.
“In the end we’ve said time and time again our opposition is the big money coming in from out-of-state special interests,” Walker said. “They have been in here since last year attacking me and attacking our reforms.
“For us, we’re going to try to get our positive message out about how we built a foundation to move Wisconsin forward, and my hope is that just as people responded in November 2010, they will respond again come this June.”
Weeks after taking office in 2011, Walker proposed a measure that curbed collective bargaining power of some public sector unions. The measure requires public sector union members to pay a portion of their pension and health care benefits, and caps wage increases.
The law resulted in several protests attended by thousands of people at the capitol in Madison. Thousands did not descend upon Spectrum Brands Monday, but approximately 15 people did gather near the facility.
“There is still a lot of passion out there and this state has been filled with passion for years, long before I was governor,” Walker said. “My hope is that just as we’ve done in the past when we’ve had political battles, we still respected our neighbors.
“We still found a way to move the state forward and I think we will long after June 5.”
One protestor in attendance Monday was Chad Henneman, 32, Boscobel, a correctional food service leader-two at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel.
Henneman learned of Walker’s visit to Fennimore Monday morning and attended after working his shift earlier in the day.
“What makes the fire keep going for me is we still have to work,” Henneman said. “We are still going to work and every day we are reminded of the changes due to Scott Walker.
“Businesses think that profit comes before people, but it doesn’t, not in the real world and not in the dictionary.”
Financial Times correspondent Hal Weitzman asked Walker if the recall effort has given him an opportunity to embark on the campaign trail.
“I was doing this long before the recall, to me, this is what I was elected to do,” Walker said. “Not to campaign, but to spend my time not only talking to employers, but employees.
“As governor, long after June 5 I will continue down this heavy pace.”
When asked what he enjoyed most about his visit to Fennimore, Walker was quick to answer.
“The biggest thing was literally talking to some of the people who have been here for many, many years but who in years past had temporarily lost their jobs,” Walker said. “There was a woman that was literally giving me a hug because she was so excited the jobs had come back.
“She said for four-and-a-half months she completely stressed out and when the jobs came back she was completely enthused. You just don’t think of people having that kind of enthusiasm to get back to work and she was like that. To me, that is pretty refreshing to see.”