Work on the Foxconn complex in Racine County is well underway, and people who live in the area still have strong feelings about it. The Taiwanese electronics giant is building a massive LCD screen factory in Mount Pleasant, and has promised up to 13,000 jobs.
The plant is expected to open next year. But the size and other plans for the project have changed, causing some people to doubt the jobs promise – and to question the huge taxpayer investment.
Foxconn is seeking a permit to build at least one of its buildings taller than what the village allows. A handful of people attended a hearing on that part of the plan Tuesday night in Mount Pleasant. Kim Mahoney lives the closest to the complex, and says she opposes any tall building that Foxconn may want to develop.
“They’re going to build a huge building in my backyard. I used to see corn field and soybean fields and beautiful trees and they’ve ripped those down and now want to put a big, ugly concrete building in my backyard,” she says.
Mahoney says she doesn’t think any more concessions should be made for Foxconn. For instance, a judge earlier this month ruled in favor of Racine’s request to divert millions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan for the project.
Mike Andersen also lives nearby. He says he’s nervous about the amount of money that state and local taxpayers forked out for Foxconn —$4.5 billion. In exchange, he says he hopes the company honors the $10 billion investment it promised to the state.
“Out of our taxes, why do we have to support Foxconn? Are they going by what they say? And it doesn’t appear they are. How much are they going to back pedal? How much are they going to flip flop?" he says.
Anderson says he’s also concerned about reports that the size of the project has been reduced. The company first promised a 20 million square foot facility that would mostly manufacture large LCD screens for flat screens TVs. Then last summer, Foxconn said it would build a smaller factory that would mostly manufacture smaller screens for devices like smart phones and laptops.
Sharon Guetzlaff lives near Highway KR in Racine, one of the main roads leading to Foxconn. She shared a different Foxconn-related concern: the infrastructure work surrounding the factory site that’s made traffic difficult.
“Obviously, things are very re-routed. When we are trying to get west out of the county, it’s a little different route. And you see different traffic patterns in the city because of it too, on the southwest end of the city and out here in Sturtevant and Mount Pleasant,” she says.
But, Guetzlaff thinks Foxconn will ultimately be good for the community. She says if the company creates the jobs it has promised, it will give the local economy a much-needed boost.
Local and state lawmakers that have backed the project since the beginning agree. They continue to argue that the project will help transform the economy, both by providing jobs at the factory and spurring related developments nearby.