Skepticism surrounds Foxconn as announcement appears imminent

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jul 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 18:22:11-04

The buzz about the potential for a Taiwanese manufacturer coming to southeast Wisconsin has gained momentum, especially with the news of a "jobs announcement" being added to President Donald Trump's calendar Wednesday, but some are skeptical about the idea. 

State Rep. Tom Weatherton, whose district includes Racine, told our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal that the Foxconn incentive package could be the largest in the state history. The details remain hush-hush.

"We don't know what the benefits package is or the incentive package is because they're holding their cards very close to their face," said Steven Deller, Professor of Agriculture and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Deller said companies like Foxconn typically ask for tax breaks.  He's worried the governor could agree to too much.

"The governor is a bit between a rock and a hard place because he made the promise of 250,000 jobs...but at the same time if the benefits package is too aggressive, too generous he may be accused of essentially giving away the baby in order to get the cred," said Deller.

The professor thinks Foxconn wants to tap into the Chicago market, while Wisconsin takes on the cost of incentives.

"The down side is that a lot of workers and a lot of suppliers may be coming out of the Illinois market," said Deller.

One incentive could be no property taxes.

"It could be a win for the state, but local governments actually are kind of put in a very difficult decision," said Deller.

Municipalities might have to invest in new fire and police stations, expand sewer and water systems, and grow schools.

Interim Racine Mayor Dennis Wiser said municipalities directly involved with the deal have signed non-disclosure agreements. The city is not one of them, but the mayor said he is ready to support as appropriate.

The Business Journal said Foxconn could be built on land east of I-94, south of Highway 20 and North of Highway 11 in Mount Pleasant.

The official announcement is expected Wednesday in Washington D.C.