WEDC board to vote Wednesday on staff review of Foxconn deal, not contract

Foxconn products on display at WCTC.

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

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board is expected to vote Wednesday on the staff review that forms the basis of Foxconn’s tax incentive contract with the state, spokesman Mark Maley said in an email.

The agency has also now decided to allow board members to review the contract before voting on the staff review, a departure from its normal award process and a shift from its position as recently as Thursday. Mark Hogan, WEDC secretary and chief executive officer, told board members in an email Friday they could see the contract as soon as Monday afternoon.

“Given we are very close on the contract language, and given the size of the award, now is the appropriate time to make it available to you as board members,” Hogan wrote.

The agency posted the agenda for the meeting to its website this week. The document doesn’t include any reference to Foxconn or the electronic and information technology manufacturing zone program being used to award the company $2.85 billion in refundable tax credits. However, it does include a closed session in connection with the awards committee.

Hogan’s email said WEDC and Foxconn were continuing to negotiate the final details and board members would receive a draft of the staff review Friday.

“There are a few business issues that need to be resolved, but I am confident these will be finalized over the next couple of days,” Hogan wrote.

He added the staff review and contract would be reviewed in closed session “and as such, should be treated in a confidential manner.” The contract will be made public once it is signed, Hogan said.

The vote will take place during closed session, Maley said.

WEDC’s board has received updates on the Foxconn negotiations from Mark Hogan, WEDC chief executive officer, during closed sessions at its last two meetings. Hogan has said publicly the agency and Foxconn were not concerned about the amount of time it was taking to finalize the staff review or contract.

But nearly two months have passed since Gov. Scott Walker signed the Foxconn bill and critics of the project have used that time to argue there should be more public scrutiny of the contract before it is finalized. State Sen. Tim Carpenter, a Milwaukee Democrat and WEDC board member, has been among the most vocal, “formally requesting” to see the Foxconn contract before it is approved.

For other WEDC awards, the board generally approves the staff review and then the agency executes a formal contract with the company. The Wisconsin State Journal reported this week that Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, both said the board should be able to review the contract.

Maley said Thursday WEDC would continue to use its normal procedures when asked if Vos and Fitzgerald would change the agency’s position. At the time, he stressed the staff review would include information on job creation requirements, clawbacks, reporting and monitoring.

“While this is a departure from our normal procedure, because we are very close on the terms of a contract and because the size of this award, Secretary Hogan decided it was appropriate to provide board members with the contract before Wednesday’s meeting,” Maley said in an email Friday.

The Foxconn project has also become the source of partisan divides, with polls showing large gaps in views of the project between Republicans and Democrats. New Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, took the step this week of removing Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, from the WEDC board and replacing him with Rep. Dana Wachs, an Eau Claire Democrat and candidate for governor.

Maley said the change shouldn’t impact the board’s ability to vote on the staff review next week.

“Secretary Hogan thanks Rep. Barca for his service on the board, and believes his input and perspective have made WEDC a better organization,” Maley added.

This story has been updated to reflect WEDC’s decision to provide the board with the contract.

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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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