In a message to his constituents Thursday, state Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, explained his vote for the Foxconn bill.

Today the Assembly passed August 2017 Special Session Assembly Bill 1 with a bipartisan vote. The bill paves the way for Foxconn to make an historic investment in Wisconsin – in fact, one of the largest foreign investments in U.S. history. I appreciated receiving your feedback regarding the bill. There are four primary aspects of the bill, coupled with overall positive feedback that led to my support.

– Economic – Foxconn will diversify the Wisconsin economy with ancillary businesses, create additional careers and small business opportunities throughout the state.

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield.

– Academic – A new industry will enable Wisconsin’s public and private colleges, universities and technical schools to create and support programs tailored to 21st century engineering and manufacturing.

– National Security – This is not only an opportunity to bring a company to Wisconsin but a much larger opportunity to bring an entire industry to America. This type of technology is integrated in nearly every ship, plane and vehicle so it is in our best interest to have domestic production capability and, more importantly, to have professionals in our country who know how to design, engineer and build the equipment and necessary operation processes.

– Environmental – I am comfortable that the provisions of the bill will not have a negative environmental impact.

Economic

Generally, I am opposed to subsidies and refundable taxes. A refundable tax means that a corporation receives more money back from the state than they pay to the state. Although it is difficult to quantify, I believe the ancillary and supporting businesses that will inevitably move to Wisconsin as well as the likely expansion by our organic businesses will lead to a net gain in state revenue over a reasonable period of time. In fact two independent accounting firms, Baker Tilly and Ernst & Young, issued reports which make a compelling case that the overall impact of the Foxconn investment will lead to a net positive economic impact for the state.

Additional economic benefits include increased air travel activity which will require Mitchell International Airport to offer more flight options; excess energy capacity will help spread energy fixed costs over more rate payers; and other supporting businesses will pay more in gas, sales and other taxes.

Academic

In bringing this new industry to Wisconsin, our academic institutions are excited to expand and strengthen their curriculums to help fill the created need. Without exception, public and private colleges and universities and technical colleges’ presidents have already expressed their enthusiasm and commitment to training the workers needed for Foxconn. Wisconsin is home to many strong academic institutions and this opportunity will provide them the chance to collaborate and develop deeper partnerships.

Consider the following quotes from our educational leaders:

• UW System President Ray Cross said he believes the Foxconn project would be “transformative” for the state and would “catapult” the state university system into a “position of global prominence” through partnerships, internships and research opportunities that would build on what is already a strong research base.
• Marquette University President Michael Lovell stated, “You’re talking 13,000 jobs, that’s a significant workforce the whole region needs to help develop. From the technical colleges all the way up to the universities. We need to help prepare our students to move into the jobs that Foxconn is going to be generating. We need to make sure the curriculum aligns with the jobs need.”
• University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank described Foxconn as “illustrating the importance of a culture of innovation, along with a strong public research university, to regional economic development.”

National Security

When America entered WW I and WW II, our nation’s industrial backbone had the capacity and the capability to quickly produce the equipment and supplies necessary to win those wars. Unfortunately, the relative peace of the post-cold war period has passed and the world is becoming increasingly hostile with threats from Russia, North Korea, Iran and China.

As we have learned from past wars, the effectiveness and capability of our military relies heavily on support from the home front, particularly, our nation’s strong manufacturing sector. Until recently, the concept of cyberwarfare was only found in Sci-Fi novels; yet today, it is a daily battle being waged by both state and non-state enemies of America.

In today’s world, nearly every ship, plane and vehicle contains LCD technology. An observer of a military intelligence outpost in Afghanistan or the Pentagon would observe walls and rooms covered with LCD screens displaying maps, videos and other vital information. Our military is heavily reliant upon, and will become increasingly reliant upon, LCD technology but as we stand today, nearly all production and production know how relating to this technology is found in Asia.

Foxconn is often referred to as a “Chinese” company but that statement is inaccurate. Foxconn is a Taiwanese company which is significantly different. It makes tremendous sense that with constant tension between China and Taiwan, a Taiwanese company with global reach would seek to diversify their production outside of China.

Typically, financial incentives granted by a state to a business entails the process of poaching companies from one state into another. The Foxconn package is unique because the reasonable incentive package offers the opportunity to bring an entire industry to Wisconsin that currently doesn’t exist anywhere in the western hemisphere. It is critical that our country has the domestic capability to produce the wide ranging products associated with this technology. Even more important is to develop a generation of engineers, managers and workers that have the knowledge and skills to supply the technology in a future time of critical demand.

Environment

The bill expedites and streamlines environmental permits and reviews, but makes no changes to state or federal environmental standards. In fact, the bill requires 2 additional acres of wetlands be created for every 1 acre that needs to be utilized in building the facility and the 2 additional acres must be within the same watershed. I am confident both the state DNR and federal EPA will ensure Foxconn is compliant with Wisconsin’s high standards. I value the beauty of our great state and would not support a bill which harms that beauty.

Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, is the state representative for the 14th Assembly district.