Voters skeptical of statewide Foxconn benefits

Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, visits a recruiting event at Marquette.

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

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll shows voters are skeptical that the arrival of Foxconn Technology Group will benefit businesses outside the greater Milwaukee area.

Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, visits a recruiting event at Marquette.

“There is profound skepticism,” said Charles Franklin, the poll’s director, of the responses to a question asking voters if they believe businesses in their area will benefit from the project.

Foxconn is planning to build a $10 billion LCD manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant. The company says it will create 13,000 jobs with the help of a $3 billion state tax incentive package and more than $1 billion in other local and infrastructure investments.

Supporters of the project have pointed to the potential of statewide benefits for businesses, highlighting Foxconn’s planned $1.4 billion of in-state supply chain purchases as evidence.

Just 26 percent of respondents said they expect businesses in their area to benefit from the deal and 66 percent don’t expect to see a benefit in their area.

“These numbers include people who live here in the southeast,” Franklin said, adding he interprets the result as voters not expecting a benefit for existing businesses.

Outside of the Milwaukee area, the poll found around one in five voters think businesses in their area will benefit from Foxconn.

The poll broke down the results by region and found skepticism of whether the Foxconn deal will ultimately be worth the state’s $3 billion investment.

“The one set of real cheerleaders are the folks that live here in the Milwaukee suburbs,” Franklin said, noting the region was the one area where a majority said the investment would be worth it.

Statewide, 38 percent of voters say the incentives will be worth it over the long-term, compared to 49 percent who say it will not be worth the cost. The result is similar to the findings of an October Marquette poll of only Milwaukee-area voters, which also found 38 percent expect the deal to be worth it and 48 percent said it will not match the cost.

Franklin joked with attendees at an event releasing the results that they “will be shocked to know that partisanship plays a role” in support for the project.

But he said that even among Republicans outside of the Milwaukee area, there’s doubt about the potential benefits of Foxconn.

The poll also found voters in the City of Milwaukee are skeptical of the Foxconn deal eventually being worth the investment.

More than half of voters, 57 percent, do expect the project will improve the Milwaukee-area economy, while 35 percent don’t expect a benefit for the region. Franklin noted the City of Milwaukee showed some uncertainty of a potential benefit for the region.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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