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Aug 8, 201712:12 PMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Foxconn hearing reveals team effort — and provides a few ideas

(page 1 of 2)

After lawmakers finished grilling members of the Walker administration over the details of a proposed incentive package to bring Foxconn Technology Group to Wisconsin, the mood in last Thursday’s public hearing audibly changed.

While their questions were still tough, members of the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy took on a decidedly different tone as they listened to leaders of local government and higher education describe why thought the deal would be good for Wisconsin and its taxpayers.

Those few hours may represent a turning point in the debate over whether Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, should get $3 billion in public incentives over 15 years in exchange for a $10-billion investment, 13,000 direct jobs, and a supply chain likely to employ twice as many workers.

An inherent skepticism is baked into the mix when the executive branch of state government offers ideas that are subject to legislative scrutiny. That tension has been present with every administration in recent memory, Republican or Democrat, and it’s no different under Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Lawmakers are often more willing to listen to others whom they trust, even if the message is identical or nearly so to what they hear from a governor’s team.

That was the case during Thursday’s hearing in the State Capitol, where the mood changed when lawmakers heard testimony from leaders of the University of Wisconsin System, Marquette University, the state’s Technical College System, and bipartisan local leaders from Kenosha and Racine counties. Sites in those two counties are where Foxconn will build its 20-million-square-foot plant.

UW System President Ray Cross said he believes the Foxconn project would be “transformative” for the state and would “catapult” the state university system into a “position of global prominence” through partnerships, internships, and research opportunities that would build on what is already a strong research base.

His views were supported by UW–Parkside Chancellor Deb Ford and UW–Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone, whose campuses are close to Foxconn’s proposed sites and would be likely sources of talent and industry partnerships.

UW–Madison Engineering Dean Ian Robertson talked about the need for engineering graduates to fill Foxconn-related jobs, either directly or indirectly, and noted the college must add faculty to meet those demands over time.

(Continued)

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Aug 8, 2017 03:34 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I am sure there are existing and successful businesses all over Wisconsin that would be happy to grow if provided a fraction of the subsidies this state is eager to give Foxconn. Additionally, Foxconn has made these promises many times before to many other places around the globe. Use some common sense here, please.

Aug 8, 2017 04:43 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

It might be useful once a site is selected for the local school districts and governments to talk with people who went through the early fast days of development in Verona. Depending on where they are on the school tax formula and other formulas there may be some bumps in the road. The other thing not talked about is human support service needs- fire police infrastructure (not necessarily growing with the demand) and child care . If wages dip below $20 a hour the market, employees will fall in the child care doughnut hole between where the subsidy ends and the employee can afford to pay- and the Racine-Kenosha area has been hit hard by the freeze in the Wisconsin Shares rates. The company comes from China where free low cost day care and health care is the norm. The state may need to fix their broken child care subsidy system to make it feasible for Foxconn to hire 3000 workers without tragedies occurring to children.

Aug 10, 2017 07:49 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Our Governor and state politicians are feeling compelled to provide extreme corporate welfare to foreign corporations......sad. I recall in the early 1990's when American Family Insurance used their own money to build a new 1M+ square foot headquarters along with paying for the major 6 lane highway improvements, along with other offsite improvements. I do not recall our state government (us poor taxpayers) shelling out $250,000 for each of the 2,500 Am-Fam employees. Cathy Stepp of the DNR is now on-board to legalize environmental destruction to further harm our state. Notice how Foxconn quickly blew off Pennsylvania once the local politicians requested a more responsible deal for their state.

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Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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