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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher January 19, 2013

Citing his accomplishments, Gov. Scott Walker says big retailer Kohl's announced 3,000 jobs

In his "state of the state" speech on Jan. 15, 2013, Gov. Scott Walker said Wisconsin is improving as a place for doing business, then boasted of a job-creation coup.

"Employers feel good about our state," the Republican governor said, reflecting on the first half of his four-year term. "During the past year, Kohl’s Department Stores worked with us and announced the creation of 3,000 new jobs."

In a state with unemployment well above 6 percent, having 3,000 jobs set to come online would be huge news. But that’s not the headline we remember.

Indeed, no ground has yet been broken on a second corporate headquarters for Kohl’s that was announced in 2012, although planning is well under way.

When it comes to employment, there are jobs and even promised jobs. Then there are potential jobs.

Saying Kohl’s "announced the creation of 3,000 new jobs" is different than saying Kohl expects or hopes to hire that many people.

Where does this one stand?

Growth of Kohl’s

The first Kohl’s department store opened in 1962 next to a Kohl’s grocery store in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. Both the department store chain and the now-defunct grocery chain were started by Max Kohl, the father of Herb Kohl, who served for 24 years as a U.S. senator from Wisconsin before deciding not to seek re-election in 2012.

Kohl’s is now a chain of more than 1,100 family-oriented department stores in 49 states, selling Jennifer Lopez, Princess Vera Wang and other lines of clothing, as well as a variety of home goods and other items. With $18.8 billion in sales in 2011, the publicly traded company -- which is no longer connected with the Kohl family -- ranked 20th on the National Retail Federation’s 2012 list of the nation’s top 100 retailers.

In December 2011, news surfaced that Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s, which has 4,900 corporate employees in the Milwaukee area, might be close to announcing a decision on where to build a second headquarters building.

Milwaukee was competing with Menomonee Falls, its suburban neighbor, for the $250 million corporate expansion. Three months later, Kohl’s said it had decided against downtown Milwaukee and in July 2012, the company announced its chosen site in Menomonee Falls.

Walker’s evidence

When we asked Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie for evidence to support Walker's claim, he provided us a news article and a news release from the governor.

Like a number of other news articles during the year, the four-paragraph November 2012 news item in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the new headquarters was expected to create 3,000 jobs over 12 years.

The Walker news release was issued on the day Kohl's announced the Menomonee Falls site. Walker said in the release that Kohl's would receive up to $62.5 million in state tax credits over 12 years, but the actual amount "will be completely dependent upon the number of newly created jobs and the amount of Kohl’s capital expenditure."

The state Economic Development Corp. said that under the deal, Kohl’s must retain 4,500 jobs, create 3,000 jobs and invest $250 million in new and existing facilities to get the full amount of the tax credits.

So, even news releases from Walker’s office and one of his state agencies talk about the possibility of 3,000 jobs, not a certainty that they had been or would soon be created.

Indeed, in a Milwaukee Business Journal article published the same day as Walker’s news release, Kohl’s chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Mansell said "up to 3,000 jobs could be added" over 12 years.

That’s a projection that, even if well founded, doesn’t amount to a commitment to create that many jobs. And there’s no way to know whether economic conditions over 12 years will enable Kohl’s to reach its hiring goal.

Our rating

Walker said that in 2012, Kohl’s Department Stores "announced the creation of 3,000 new jobs."

What Kohl’s announced is it would build a new headquarters and expected to create 3,000 jobs, over 12 years -- not that 3,000 jobs were a certainty.

For being partially accurate but leaving out important details, we rate Walker’s statement Half True.

Our Sources

Janesville Gazette, text of Gov. Scott Walker State of the State speech, Jan. 15, 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Falls, Kohl's complete real estate deal for new headquarters," Nov. 2, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Kohl's taps Menomonee Falls for new headquarters," July 19, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker, news release, July 19, 2012, news release, July 19, 2012, 2012 "Fact Book", FAQs

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., blog post, July 19, 2012

Milwaukee Business Journal, "Mansell Q&A: Kohl’s could spend $250M, add 3,000 jobs in expansion," July 19, 2012

Email interview, Kohl’s spokeswoman Jen Johnson, Jan. 18, 2013

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Citing his accomplishments, Gov. Scott Walker says big retailer Kohl's announced 3,000 jobs

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