Republicans blame Evers as Foxconn reconsiders plans for Wisconsin campus

Aide: Evers' concern is protecting taxpayers
Republicans blame Evers as Foxconn reconsiders plans for Wisconsin campus

Foxconn Technology Group is changing the focus of its planned $10 billion Wisconsin campus, while insisting it remains committed to creating 13,000 jobs, as promised.

The world’s leading electronics manufacturer said in a statement Wednesday that, because of a changed global marketplace, all of its projects, including the one in Wisconsin, are being “adjusted to meet these new realities.”

The statement comes after Foxconn official Louis Woo told Reuters in a story published Wednesday that its plans to build liquid crystal display panel screens are being scaled back and possibly shelved.

Woo said the Taiwanese company wants to create a “technology hub” largely consisting of research facilities along with packaging and assembly operations. Woo said about three-quarters of the jobs created will be in research and development and design, rather than blue-collar manufacturing jobs.

A deal championed by Republican leaders

President Donald Trump helped seal the deal with former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, heralding it as a once-in-a-generation economic development opportunity.

Under the deal, Wisconsin agreed to pay Foxconn about $4 billion in state and local incentives if it invests $10 billion and creates 13,000 jobs in the state.

Republican legislative leaders are blaming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for Foxconn Technology Group’s decision to change the focus of its massive project in the state.

.@SpeakerVos and @SenFitzgerald release a joint statement about the @Reuters report saying Foxconn is reconsidering making LCD screens in Wisconsin. Vos and Fitzgerald say they “don’t blame Foxconn for altering plans.” #news3 pic.twitter.com/bY7gF1Sx3S

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) January 30, 2019

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement that Foxconn is reacting to a “wave of economic uncertainty that the new governor has brought with his administration.”

“Gov. Evers has an anti-jobs agenda and pledged to do away with a successful business
incentive for manufacturing and agriculture,” the leaders said.

They also said they will do all they can to keep the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit in place in Wisconsin.

Foxconn earns state tax credits based on actual investment and job creation. No jobs/investment? No credits. Period.

— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) January 30, 2019

Evers and Democrats respond

Joel Brennan, secretary-designate of the Wisconsin Department of Administration and Evers’ top aide, said Wednesday the administration was surprised by the news that Foxconn Technology Group is changing the focus of its massive project in the state.

“The governor has always said that protecting Wisconsin taxpayers, the local communities that have already made significant investments in this project, and our environment are his chief concerns,” Brennan said.

Brennan said in a statement Wednesday that the Evers administration is in weekly communication with Foxconn leaders and has been in contact since learning of the announcement. He said the “continuing evolution” of the project will require further review and evaluation.

In the coming weeks, the Evers Administration will continue to commit time, resources, and personnel to ensure that the interests of Wisconsin workers and taxpayers are protected and promoted by our approach to the Foxconn project. pic.twitter.com/3pBhRBTRfq

— Wisconsin DOA (@WisconsinDOA) January 30, 2019

Evers was critical of Foxconn during his campaign against Walker, who landed the project.

Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz called the announcement “devastating for the taxpayers of Wisconsin.”

He said the state was promised manufacturing jobs and a “game changing economic opportunity,” but it appears Foxconn may be “leaving another state and community high and dry.”

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said he was disappointed but “not surprised at all.”

“If you take a look at the history of Foxconn, whether it’s in Pennsylvania, Brazil and China, this is kind of what they do,” Erpenbach told News 3. “They come in with big promises, they get big incentives and then, in the end, things tend to fizzle out.”

Stakeholders and local community react to announcement

President Tom Still, a supporter of the Foxconn deal, said he believes the company won’t walk away from Wisconsin.

“They’re a really diverse technology company and the kinds of things they will continue to do as they build out in Wisconsin are going to be a really good match for the technologies that we have here,” Still told News 3.

He said the company has already invested as much as $200 million in Wisconsin and it’s unlikely it will pull out. But he acknowledges it’s unclear whether the company will deliver on promises it’s made.

“Will they hit the announced goal of 13,000 jobs and $10 billion in capital investment? I have no way of knowing. I do know that the contract as written is very tight and that Gov. Evers and the Legislature will certainly hold them to it,” Still said.

Still said taxpayers shouldn’t be worried, and that Foxconn won’t get tax credits if it doesn’t deliver.

Local government and economic development leaders issued a statement Wednesday saying Foxconn has already invested more than $200 million in the state. They say Foxconn committed to building an advanced manufacturing operation in Wisconsin and is proceeding with construction on related facilities this year.

The officials said they “fully expect” Foxconn to meet its obligations to Wisconsin, Racine County and the village of Mount Pleasant.

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