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Foxconn Deal With Gov. Evers Heads To WEDC Board

Chuck Quirmbach
One of the buildings still under construction at the Foxconn site in Mount Pleasant on Aug. 24, 2020.

A state board Tuesday will consider a proposed settlement between Foxconn and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to reduce tax breaks for Foxconn's large campus in Racine County.

Evers has been seeking, for more than a year, to cut the huge financial incentives promised in 2017 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Evers, a Democrat, has said Foxconn has fallen well short of job creation and investment goals for its manufacturing site in the Village of Mount Pleasant.

The Associated Press quotes an unnamed source who said the new deal will reduce the potential tax breaks by billions of dollars but still leave potential incentives for the company that are worth more than $10 million.

State Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) is a member of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Board. The board will review the Evers proposal Tuesday afternoon. Hintz said he's optimistic that the governor has come up with a realistic and accountable contract that can still lead to good jobs at Foxconn. He noted the state and local governments have already spent many millions of dollars on roads, water pipes and sewers for the development.

"You know, we'll want to know how it impacts local governments who already have investments and are looking for payback. We'll want to know what kind of transparency and accountability there will be. But I feel good about what I've read so far," said Hintz.

In a joint statement, Mount Pleasant and Racine County say they're pleased the state and Foxconn have reached an agreement, and look forward to continued progress on the campus just east of I-94.

Foxconn said it's grateful the state has found a solution, but said the changes were needed due to "unforeseeable economic conditions."

UW-Milwaukee Prof. Jeffrey Sommers
Courtesy of UWM
UW-Milwaukee Prof. Jeffrey Sommers said he hopes that the failings of the original Foxconn deal will help shape future public/private collaborations in Wisconsin going forward.

Jeffrey Sommers, professor of political economy and public policy at UW-Milwaukee, said he wants to see more details of the agreement, but said it's no surprise Foxconn would have to give up some incentives.

Sommers said the last four years have not been a good look for anyone. "Nothing of any significance had ever materialized out of this deal. It just looked bad for all concerned. So, I'm hoping they are able to come up with an agreement that results in something actually being produced at the site. It'll be good for all concerned if it does," he said.

Somers said overall, the Foxconn development has been a cautionary tale for how governments should offer incentives to the private sector.

"I would hope that there is going to be more thoughtful consideration of projects that are planned, and how they are going to be both conceived and executed before we would undertake anything that would remotely resemble this again," he said.

Sommers does not rule out an idea that surfaced a couple months ago, that Foxconn would help build electric vehicles in Mount Pleasant. But the most immediate step for the Taiwan-based firm appears to be counting on less support from Wisconsin taxpayers.

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