We’re all in on Foxconn, like it or not

Commentary

The first pieces of construction equipment have arrived at the Foxconn Technology Group site in Mount Pleasant as general contractors Gilbane Building Co. and M+W Group GmbH begin the early work to build a $10 billion LCD screen manufacturing campus.

The village has acquired much of the site for the project and recently transferred nearly 800 acres of land to the company. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently approved air emissions permits for the Foxconn complex and also approved an application for Racine to divert 7 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan, most of it for Foxconn. Numerous road projects are slated to begin later this year to improve access to the Foxconn site.

Just more than a year after negotiations first began between Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn founder Terry Gou, the project is moving full speed ahead. The company says the campus could eventually have 13,000 employees. Supporters, led by Walker, sure hope so and believe the Foxconn supply chain will transform Wisconsin’s economy.

Meanwhile, the long list of Democrats competing for a chance to take on Walker this fall have been very critical of the Foxconn deal and some want to challenge it. Attorney Matt Flynn says if he’s elected he will file a lawsuit to stop Foxconn. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and state Rep. Dana Wachs expect Foxconn to violate the terms of the deal, which they say would create an opportunity to renegotiate it.

The state’s $3 billion subsidy for the project is certainly shocking and raises all sorts of legitimate questions. And local incentives, road construction and utility upgrades will add another $1.5 billion or so.

The Foxconn project is a big risk for the state and Mount Pleasant. While the state’s incentive package is tied to job creation and capital investment, there is still a massive amount of upfront cost for infrastructure. And there’s no guarantee Foxconn will remain successful here for the long haul.

But there is also tremendous potential upside. In a state and region that has seen only tepid growth compared to more robust areas of the country for decades, Foxconn could be the economic opportunity of a lifetime.

At this point, the state and Mount Pleasant have pushed their chips toward the center of the table. We’re all in on the Foxconn deal. It’s time to hope for the best.

Walker is sounding the alarm to his supporters that if he loses in November, a Democratic governor will look to kill the Foxconn deal and its great opportunity for the state will be lost.

Rather than trying to stop the project or expecting a violation of the deal, the Democrats running for governor should argue that they will do a better job of making sure that Foxconn lives up to its promises and complies with environmental regulations.

And the state needs to just say no to any Foxconn suppliers that request their own subsidy. We’ve done more than enough.

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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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