Here we go again. In yet another disturbing twist of events, Wisconsin taxpayers are learning of the likelihood that Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company given a $3.2 billion tax incentive deal to build a $10 billion plant in Wisconsin to make large LCD panels, might be changing their plans.
However, the sad fact is that almost as soon as the ink had dried on the Wisconsin deal, Foxconn started walking back their promises. So, should we really be surprised?
Former Governor Scott Walker and Speaker Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, state Republicans and even Kanye West were extolling the virtues of this deal. Foxconn was going to restore manufacturing in Wisconsin by bringing some 13,000 jobs to the state. Even though we were told that it could take up to 20 years to realize the full benefits of the sweetheart deal given to the China-based company, Walker claimed it was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Republicans were on board, hook, line, and sinker.
Well, sinking is exactly what this deal is doing to the hopes of the thousands of residents and local businesses that were counting on Foxconn to help turn things around. First, the company reduced the size of the plants that they would build. Next, we learned that the large LCD panels they were going to produce was no longer viable. They announced they were switching to smaller screens. Then conversations erupted about automation versus actual laborers. At some point, the company floated the idea that neither Wisconsin nor the United States could supply the needed workforce. Foxconn said Chinese labor might need to be imported. Wait….it gets better! This week, the company has said their Wisconsin facility will become more of a research hub. Job projections have now switched to 90 percent research and 10 percent laborers.
The deal that we were sold by Foxconn will never materialize. Republican leadership needs to admit, plain and simple, in their rush to secure this agreement, they got played. Foxconn has a well-documented pattern of “bait and switch” tactics. The writing was on the wall. Yet Walker and crew, with an eye on re-election, chose to look the other way. Unwilling to own up to their mistakes, they want to blame the incoming Evers administration or the everchanging field of technology.
However, it was Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) who contacted Foxconn officials “to make sure they knew regardless of who occupies the east wing of the state Capitol, Foxconn is going to have allies in the Assembly and hopefully in both chambers.” It would have been great if the people of Wisconsin had an ally in protecting them from an agreement that is going to cost the state millions.
More poignantly, it was Walker who said: “It’s not just about jobs or a series of structures, but really about rebranding this state in a way that helps us attract more talent from across the country and across the world”. Well, their deal did rebrand Wisconsin. We are making headlines across the nation as the state that got played.