Panel discussion on potential ripple effects of Foxconn deal

Posted at 4:43 PM, Aug 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-22 17:43:31-04

The potential of a massive Foxconn plant in southeastern Wisconsin excites community leaders in Milwaukee.

The State Assembly has already approved $3 billion in tax incentives for Foxconn, which plans to build a $10 billion plant along I-94. Both Racine and Kenosha Counties have been mentioned as possible sites.

Scott Neitzel, Secretary of Wisconsin's Department of Administration, said he expects the State Senate to soon approve the incentive package for Foxconn also.

"We'd expect the bill to move over the next couple or three weeks," Neitzel said.

Neitzel on Tuesday participated in a panel on the possible ripple effects of the Foxconn project in Downtown Milwaukee, hosted by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Neitzel said Foxconn will provide up to 13-thousand jobs paying an average of $54,000/year. He said the plant would keep Wisconsin's brightest talent in state while also luring ambitious professionals from elsewhere.

Eve Hall, President and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League, hopes workers from the city can help fill some of those positions.

"We will be preparing and helping to assist individuals to take on those jobs," Hall said.

Members of the business community are excited about the possibility of the Foxconn plant, which would manufacture liquid crystal displays. 

Joseph Tierney, President of business law firm Davis & Kuelthau, said a large Foxconn facility would likely trigger further development along I-94.

"We could see office development, or more retail development pop up," Tierney said. "There will of course have to be multi-family housing development, to support the more than 10,000 workers that come in."

Neitzel added the proposed deal, which is based on the "pay as you grow" model of providing tax incentives in conjunction with Foxconn hiring more people, is a win for taxpayers.

"We put on the table what we thought was good and fair for taxpayers and said (to Foxconn), 'this is our offer,'" Neitzel said.

But not everyone is convinced.

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) was among the members of the assembly that voted against the proposal. He's concerned the state is providing Foxconn with too much money and that taxpayers will have to wait decades for a positive return on investment.

"I want to see what protections and assurances we have in place to make sure the economic promises they're making come to fruition," Brostoff said.

"At this point, those questions haven't been answered," he also said.