Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:11 pm
Briefly assuming a role he knew very well before taking office less than two years ago, U.S. President Donald Trump grabbed a gold-plated shovel and ceremonially broke ground Thursday to celebrate the start of construction of the massive Foxconn complex in Mount Pleasant.
The president, who has spent the week criticizing Milwaukee legacy company Harley-Davidson on Twitter, spent less than five minutes at the groundbreaking before heading to the Foxconn Opus Building in Mount Pleasant for a speech (click here to see a video of the ceremony).
During that speech (click here to watch it), Trump said the Foxconn project was the result of “a pro-America agenda.”
“To me, this is always going to be the special one,” Trump said, later suggesting the Foxconn plant should be called the eighth wonder of the world.
He recalled the often told story of seeing the former Chrysler plant site in Kenosha during his visit to Snap-on last year, adding that he recommended Wisconsin to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou and then handed the effort off to Gov. Scott Walker.
“This is just the beginning,” Trump said. “I know Terry, this is just the beginning.”
Gou said Foxconn would not be investing in Wisconsin if it were not for Trump.
“His commitment and execution is truly one of the best,” Gou said. “He truly cares about improving the lives of American people.”
Trump also called SoftBank chairman and chief executive officer Masayoshi Son to the stage. Son, who made an investment following a meeting with Trump in late 2016, said he considers Gou his best friend and that he promised Trump he would bring Foxconn to the U.S.
“I did not have official, official permission from Terry, but I promised,” Son said, calling the groundbreaking for the Foxconn plant “a great historical moment.”
At the outdoor groundbreaking ceremony, Trump was joined by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Walker and Gou. Trump’s only remark there was, “Let’s go get it.”
The intimate event was by invitation only with only media in attendance and about 50 people, including Walker’s family, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, several Milwaukee business leaders and other elected officials.
It was held on Braun Road, which was closed during the event by Secret Service.
Former Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel said he had chills before the event thinking about how transformational the Foxconn project was for the state.
“We have such a great partner in Foxconn and the relationship between chairman Gou and Gov. Walker is outstanding,” Neitzel said. “I don’t think people can truly appreciate not only how transformational this project is going to be, but everything that comes after.”
Foxconn is planning to build a Gen 6 LCD screen plant in Mount Pleasant and will eventually create 13,000 jobs and invest $10 billion in the state.
Foxconn’s contract with the state requires the company to have at least 260 full-time employees at the end of the year to receive any tax credits and 1,040 to receive the maximum $9.5 million in credits available this year.
Thompson, who served as governor from 1987 to 2001, said the overall $4.5 billion tax incentive package the state has approved for Foxconn can be loved or hated, but the company will have to prove itself in the long run.
“Any time you have an opportunity to get thousands of good paying jobs, you have to support that,” Thompson said. “Any state of America would have supported this. Wisconsin is lucky in that regard. This is going to be a huge boost for Racine and Racine County and transformational as far as our economy is concerned.”
Gale Klappa, CEO of WEC Energy Group, recalled going with Walker, Jim Paetsch, vice president of the Milwaukee 7, a small group of business leaders just one year ago to convince Foxconn to locate to Wisconsin.
“This was probably one of the quickest developments of its size in the history of the world,” Klappa said. “If you think about a year ago, and fast forward to a little more than a year later… to me this is a proud movement for our state.”
Walker and House speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement praising the Foxconn project.
“This is a historic moment for our entire state and our country,” Governor Walker said. “Wisconsin won Foxconn and the first LCD manufacturing facility in North America thanks to our outstanding workforce and strong manufacturing legacy. With Foxconn’s plans to create 13,000 direct good-paying, family-supporting jobs, and our record low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, it makes it all the more important to attract more workers to Wisconsin.”
“As we break ground today, we embark on a new era of manufacturing in the State of Wisconsin,” said Ryan. “I’m thrilled that this project will not only create thousands of good, family-sustaining jobs, but ensure that Wisconsin is at the cutting-edge of this important industry. Today, we demonstrate to the rest of the world that Wisconsin will be a manufacturing powerhouse for generations to come, and I am excited to see the far-reaching economic impact Foxconn will have on the state and district I call home.”
State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, also praised the Foxconn groundbreaking.
“Today is a huge win for Wisconsin as our state leads the way in ensuring that manufacturing continues to play an important role in our economy. Foxconn will add quality, well-paying jobs for workers and their families,” Vukmir said. “I would especially like to thank President Trump, Gov. Walker and Speaker Ryan today for their leadership bringing Foxconn to Wisconsin. This investment in our economy will provide a significant statewide ripple effect for Wisconsin businesses. Today’s groundbreaking sends a signal across the country that Wisconsin is open for business. Several local officials also cheered the Foxconn groundbreaking milestone today.”
“This is a celebration of an unprecedented investment in our community, said Mount Pleasant village president David DeGroot. “Today’s groundbreaking sets into motion the creation of thousands of family-supporting jobs and a ripple effect of economic development that will impact the entire state.”
“Less that one year ago, we learned that Racine County would be home to Foxconn’s first major North American investment. Since that time, we’ve built a great partnership with Foxconn and demonstrated unprecedented intergovernmental cooperation as the company has strengthened its unparalleled commitment to Racine County and the State of Wisconsin,” said Racine County executive Jonathan Delagrave. “I’m proud to call Racine County the home of Foxconn.”
“For many, today’s groundbreaking signals that Foxconn is here to stay,” said Jenny Trick, executive director of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC): I anticipate that today is just the starting point of celebrations to come as other businesses consider all that Racine County has to offer and make decisions to invest in our community.”
Gou thanked the elected officials who have worked with the company on the project.
“We are proud to mark this historic occasion and formally start construction of our state-of-the art science and technology campus in America’s heartland,” said Gou. “Over the past year, we have formed strong partnerships with communities across Wisconsin and we look forward to continuing to work with the talented, hard-working people here in the years ahead. We thank President Trump, Governor Walker, and Speaker Ryan for their commitment to this project that will help reinvigorate high-tech manufacturing in the U.S. and the high-tech industry in the Midwest.”
But several Democrats used the Foxconn groundbreaking ceremony as an opportunity to criticize Walker and Republicans for the massive incentive package provided for the project. They were quick to point to the fact, reported by BizTimes Milwaukee last week, that the first LCD fabrication facility on the Foxconn Technology Group campus in Mount Pleasant will be a Gen 6 plant, not a Gen 10.5 plant as originally planned. Despite that change, the company says it is not changing its plans to create 13,000 jobs and invest $10 billion in Wisconsin. But Democrats say the change of plans follows a pattern for the company not living up to its promises.
“There’s a reason contracts aren’t written on the back of a napkin,” said Kelda Roys, a Democratic candidate for governor. “It’s extremely troubling that Scott Walker is giving billions of dollars to a company that’s changing their end of the bargain on a whim. The recklessness of this deal proves it was designed to secure Walker’s reelection, not help the people of Wisconsin. Scott Walker should never have negotiated a contract and agreed to give billions to a company with a history of broken promises. At a time when Wisconsin small businesses and family farms are struggling, throwing $4.5 billion at a bad bet is the last thing our state needs. Wisconsinites deserve better from our governor.”
“If we had enough money to give away $4 billion to a foreign corporation – then we had more than enough money to invest in the people of Wisconsin,” said Mahlon Mitchell, another Democratic candidate for governor. “The thousands of Wisconsin workers who foot this bill deserve good-paying, safe jobs that will allow them to support their families and a 21st century transportation system that get them to and from those jobs safely. Every tax dollar paid by our hard working taxpayers should be spent to make Wisconsin a better place.”
Matt Flynn, another Democratic candidate for governor, said on Twitter, “We cannot move Wisconsin #forwardagain without stopping #Foxconn. It will strangle the next 15 budgets, and as #wigov, I will end it with immediate litigation.”