Foxconn is huge political issue for 2018


Andrew Weiland
BizTimes Milwaukee editor Andrew Weiland

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

As Gov. Scott Walker seeks re-election this year, a long list of Democratic candidates is hoping to get a chance to take him on.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the candidates running in the Democratic primary have wasted no time criticizing the Foxconn deal pushed through last year by Walker and Republicans in the Legislature. They have been critical of the massive taxpayer subsidy approved to attract Foxconn and the environmental impact of the project.

Democrats have seized on a total subsidy figure of $4.5 billion, which includes the state’s $3 billion incentive package, the nearly $800 million in local tax incremental financing planned for infrastructure improvements, the cost of expanding I-94 and plans by American Transmission Co. to upgrade the electrical power infrastructure to serve the massive Foxconn facility.

Democrats hope Wisconsin voters will be upset about the billions in tax money spent to support a foreign corporation. Their basic argument: the money could have been better spent on something else.

Everything about the Foxconn deal is big…big project, big money, big controversy. Walker will continue to emphasize that it’s a big economic opportunity for the state: a $10 billion project for a 22 million-square-foot complex in Mount Pleasant that could eventually employ 13,000. The state tax incentives are contingent upon the job creation and capital investment.

But the key for Walker, legislative Republicans and other Foxconn project supporters is the supply chain that they say will be created in the state, forming a new high-tech manufacturing “ecosystem” that Walker calls “Wisconn Valley.”

For Walker, it would help to have signs of that ecosystem coming together this year, making a positive economic impact on the state. That’s why it was a big deal when it was announced recently that Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. would sell an office building in downtown Milwaukee to Foxconn, which plans to use the building as its Wisconsin headquarters. The building will also be home to the newly-established Wisconn Valley Innovation Center, a hub for the 8K+5G Foxconn ecosystem. Employees outside of Foxconn could work at the Wisconn Valley Innovation Center, including venture capitalists and startup firms.

Walker was quick to tout the downtown Milwaukee deal as a “Foxconn bonus,” a development that comes in addition to the heavily-subsidized Racine County complex. He says many companies throughout the state will be part of the company’s supply chain, so the economic benefits will be spread throughout Wisconsin.
This all begs a key political question: what would Democrats do if they win in November? Will they try to kill the Foxconn project? One Democratic candidate for governor, Matt Flynn, said on Twitter if he is elected, “the first thing I would do is stop the Foxconn deal.”

That could be a hard promise to keep if Foxconn starts creating a lot of jobs.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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