MacIver News Service | August 16, 2017
By M.D. Kittle
[Madison, Wis…] Opponents of Wisconsin’s potentially massive economic development deal with Foxconn Technology Group like to point to Pennsylvania’s tale of heartbreak at the hands of the Taiwanese tech giant.
That’s certainly how the Washington Post painted the picture earlier this year when Foxconn, in the first few weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, announced it plans to invest billions of dollars in the United States and create as many as 50,000 jobs.
In 2013, the post reported, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou pledged to build a $30 million factory in Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg, and hire 500 workers.
“But the factory was never built. The jobs never came,” the Post morbidly reported.
True. The deal didn’t go down.
But the story, and others like it, left out some very important details, according to a guy who has gotten to know Gou and Foxconn over the past several months: Gov. Scott Walker.
In a key way, Foxconn didn’t leave Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania left Foxconn, according to administration officials.
“In the case of Pennsylvania, they changed leadership, they changed who the governor was,” Walker told MacIver News Service Tuesday on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN in Milwaukee.
“I jokingly, but only half jokingly, say, it’s probably a pretty good reason not to change who the governor is for the next few years,” Walker, who is expected to run in 2018 for a third term, added.
The Badger State’s proposed $3 billion incentives package would no doubt play a big part in sealing Foxconn’s plan to build a $10 billion high-tech manufacturing campus in southeast Wisconsin – a development project that could ultimately create 13,000 jobs at what would be Foxconn’s first North American manufacturing operation.
But Walker said Wisconsin offers Foxconn intangible benefits that other states cannot, chief among them, stability.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, billed as “The most liberal Governor in America,” brought into office an agenda of big tax increases and stiffer government regulations on business.
“The idea that the new governor, with new terms, a new potential business climate, might come in, was something that was a grave concern for (Foxconn), and so they backed away,” Walker said.
Foxconn, too, slowed its investment in Brazil, as the South American nation reeled under corruption and the impeachment and removal of its president.
That point, too, is not noted in the Washington Post story, which all but accuses Foxconn of being a deadbeat business. Foxconn, according to the newspaper, “spoke of a $10 billion plan in 2011” in Brazil.
“In Brazil, Foxconn has an iPhone factory, but its investment has fallen far short of expectations,” the Post reported.
Gou has made it clear that Foxconn needs to be in the United States. The proposed southeast Wisconsin operation would make super-high-definition liquid crystal display panels to be used in various industries. The United States remains the largest consumer market in the world, and “Made in the U.S.A.” is critical to Foxconn’s growth prospects, the chairman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel late last month.
Gou pointed to Wisconsin’s advantageous geographical location, its transportation and logistics strengths, and its vibrant university and technical college system. He said Wisconsin has the assets to again become a center of manufacturing.
“You have a good foundation,” he told the newspaper.
Walker said Foxconn wanted to be in the middle of the United State, near a major market like Chicago, “but not in the state of Illinois.”
“Rather, in a state like Wisconsin, where we balance budgets, we have a fully funded pension system, we have a rainy day fund that’s 165 times bigger than when we took office, we have a business climate that went from the bottom 10 to the top 10,” Walker said.
The Washington Post piece suggests Gou and Foxconn are nothing more than big corporate teases – that Pennsylvania isn’t the only state that has loved and lost a potential Foxconn development deal.
But, as Walker administration officials have pointed out in recent weeks, if Pennsylvania truly was broken-hearted about Foxconn’s departure, why was it so heavily courting the deal that Wisconsin appears to be on the brink of landing? Pennsylvania was noted as several states in the running for the Foxconn project.
What’s not been widely reported is the fact that Gou’s $10 million commitment to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for robotics research didn’t end after the Pennsylvania economic development deal fell apart.
“Foxconn said its $10 million donation … was ‘moving forward very successfully,’ with half of the funds having been spent four years later,” the Washington Post reported.
Walker blames politics for the half-truths about Foxconn in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
“As we know with other issues, there are some people who are so bothered by the idea that we might have success here, particularly because they somehow think it might be beneficial to me or to some future campaign,” the Republican governor said.
“The bottom line is this is just good for Wisconsin.”
Listen to MacIver News Service’s full interview with Walker on News/Talk 1130 WISN here: