How to Get a Better Deal From Foxconn
Company is a famously hard-nosed negotiator. State must be, too.
Foxconn has a reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator, a requirement in its business of contract manufacturing. It drives hard bargains with its vendors as it relentlessly drives down costs.
Contract manufacturing operates on high volumes, but with low margins of 2.5% to 3.5%. Hence, the rigor in its sourcing methods. If fights for every dollar of cost savings.
By that token, it makes sense for Gov. Walker and his team to drive a smart bargain as it fleshes out its pending deal with Foxconn to invest up to $10 billion in a display panel plant and bring 3000 to 13,000 jobs to the state.
At this point, the two parties do not have a final deal. They have an MOU, a memorandum of understanding that outlines the broad shape of the deal. There are many points to be worked out in the final contract.
Note though that this deal is yet another bet on the manufacturing sector, where the state already has a strength and an economic development emphasis. This move does not diversify the state’s business portfolio. That said, it is clearly in the realm of advanced manufacturing where many technologies will be involved in the production processes.
Some critics of the deal decry the projected use of robots in the plant, but manufacturers have no choice but to deploy robots and other forms of automation if they want to stay in business. That’s just reality. It is one way for U.S. manufacturers to compete with $1-$3 labor in the Far East.
On the other side of the coin, automation, combined with lean disciplines and out-sourcing, limit organic job growth from manufacturing. That creates a strategic need for Wisconsin to diversify way from manufacturing for the long term. We have to reinvent our economy, which is often accomplished by entrepreneurs.
That said, I prefer the economic argument that anything that improves productivity, like robots, is good in the end for the economy and for worker wages.
It is to be expected that pundits in the cheap seats will have countless suggestions for making the deal a better one. Here are mine, gleaned from smart people:
- Bargain for a Foxconn long-term commitment to bring follow-on technologies into the Wisconsin plant when LCD display panels go obsolete. They won’t be around forever in the fast-moving technology world.
- Negotiate claw-backs on the $1.35 billion in capital credits if the company pulls out of the plant before the end of the 15-year subsidy package. The company has reneged on promises in Brazil, Indonesia, Taiwan and Pennsylvania. It spent $9.5 billion companywide on capital projects over the last five years, but has kicked off projects reported at about $14 billion since 2015 in China and India. That predates the Wisconsin $10 billion over the next six years. You get the picture on Foxconn’s reliability.
- In exchange for an accelerated permitting process, require Foxconn to submit to the state its Environmental Management System (EMS) for the new plant. Every company of any size that pollutes has an EMS. Expose its EMS to public view. That would a substitute or sorts for the waiver of an environmental impact statement.
- State officials have suggested $20 million in Foxconn training funds, but the company will likely be putting in some matching dollars for education programs like apprenticeships and internships. Work that match into the contract.
For perspective on the magnitude of the state package, the recent $10 million in subsidies awarded to Generac for the addition of 400 jobs at an expanded headquarters in Waukesha County serve a benchmark. That amounts to $25,000 per job. At an estimate of $5,000 in new sales and income taxes per job per year, that bet pays off in five years.
Another benchmark is the 2012 deal to consolidate Mercury Maine’s operations in Fond du Lac. Mercury has added 1700 jobs, which means the per-job subsidy worked out to $72,000. The ROT (return of taxes) will be 14 years.
Both projects are far less costly to taxpayers.
At the far end, the payback for Foxconn could be 25 years or more. (Indirect jobs are not included in any of the cases cited.)
Every major business decision entails risks. The risks in the Foxconn deal are obvious. That’s why hard bargaining on the front end is called for as the final contract is drafted.
More about the Foxconn Facility
- Walker picks Foxconn over Wisconsin schools and roads - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Sep 18th, 2017
- Governor Walker Signs Wisconn Valley Special Session Bill into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Sep 18th, 2017
- The State of Politics: Mr. Gou – Your Turn - Steven Walters - Sep 18th, 2017
- Governor Walker Applauds Legislature for Approving Wisconn Valley Special Session Bill - Gov. Scott Walker - Sep 14th, 2017
- Governor Walker Releases Statement on Bipartisan Senate Passage of Wisconn Valley Special Session Legislation - Gov. Scott Walker - Sep 12th, 2017
- WEDC’s Poor Jobs Accountability Record Makes Foxconn Deal a Scandal Waiting to Happen - Citizen Action of Wisconsin - Sep 11th, 2017
- Op Ed: Foxconn Deal Suspends Judicial Rules - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Sep 11th, 2017
- GOP Puts $3 Billion Foxconn Thumb on Scales of Justice - One Wisconsin Now - Sep 5th, 2017
- Op Ed: Foxconn Multiplier Overstates New Jobs - William L. Holahan and Charles O. Kroncke - Sep 2nd, 2017
- Walker administration misleads on environmental rollbacks for Foxconn - State Rep. Katrina Shankland - Aug 31st, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Newest Deal Shows Foxconn Flaws - Bruce Murphy - Aug 29th, 2017
- The State of Politics: Would Democratic Governor Kill Foxconn Deal? - Steven Walters - Aug 28th, 2017
- Op Ed: Illinois Loves Our Foxconn Deal - State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout - Aug 26th, 2017
- Biking: Foxconn, Biking and State Roads - Dave Cieslewicz - Aug 25th, 2017
- Op Ed: Foxconn Should Embrace Green Goals - John Torinus - Aug 24th, 2017
- Washington State Representative Offers Warning for Wisconsin on Foxconn - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 24th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Paper Peddles Bogus Foxconn Report - Bruce Murphy - Aug 23rd, 2017
- Representative Lisa Subeck Calls on Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairs to Focus on Budget, Prioritize People over Profits - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Aug 22nd, 2017
- Governor Walker Highlights Opportunities Foxconn Brings for Wisconsin’s Healthcare Industry - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 22nd, 2017
- The State of Politics: Foxconn Biggest Deal in State History - Steven Walters - Aug 21st, 2017
- Statewide Online Tool Assists Wisconsin Companies Seeking to Do Business with Foxconn - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 21st, 2017
- The Senate Must be The Grownups in the Room… Again. - State Sen. Tim Carpenter - Aug 21st, 2017
- Op Ed: The Many Broken Promises of Foxconn - State Rep. David Bowen - Aug 20th, 2017
- Rep. Goyke Statement on Foxconn Special Session Bill - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Aug 18th, 2017
- Wisconsin Budget: Foxconn Could Take Till 2058 To Pay Off - Jon Peacock - Aug 18th, 2017
- Governor Walker Releases Statement on Bipartisan Assembly Passage of Wisconn Valley Special Session Legislation - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 18th, 2017
- Republican Agenda Puts Corporate Welfare Package for Taiwanese Company Ahead of our Public Schools - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - Aug 17th, 2017
- Rep. Sinicki Votes No on Foxconn Package - State Rep. Christine Sinicki - Aug 17th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on the Assembly Passage of Foxconn Bill - State Rep. Peter Barca - Aug 17th, 2017
- Facts on Foxconn Trump Proponents’ Protestations Deal Would Benefit Wisconsin - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 17th, 2017
- Foxconn Debate Cheat Sheet - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Aug 17th, 2017
- $3 Billion Foxconn Boondoggle Sells Out Wisconsin’s Future to Foreign Corporation - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Aug 17th, 2017
- Op Ed: How to Get a Better Deal From Foxconn - John Torinus - Aug 17th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Will Foxconn Deal Fight Poverty? - Bruce Thompson - Aug 16th, 2017
- Governor Walker Moderates Foxconn Roundtable Discussion in Green Bay - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 16th, 2017
- Op Ed: Where Will Foxconn Find Workers? - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Aug 16th, 2017
- Vukmir: The time is now for Foxconn - Assistant Majority Leader Leah Vukmir - Aug 15th, 2017
- Foxconn tax break could exceed $1 million per job - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Aug 14th, 2017
- Paul Ryan Challenger Opposes $3 Billion Corporate Handout to Foxconn - Cathy Myers - Aug 14th, 2017
- The State of Politics: 10 Tough Questions About Foxconn Deal - Steven Walters - Aug 14th, 2017
- Dana Wachs Announces Opposition to Foxconn Package - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Aug 13th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: Did Foxconn Lobby Illegally? - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Aug 12th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca Regarding Republican Amendment to Foxconn Bill - State Rep. Peter Barca - Aug 11th, 2017
- Statement: Amendment to Special Session Assembly Bill 1 - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos - Aug 11th, 2017
- Op Ed: Renegotiate the Foxconn Deal - Matthew Flynn - Aug 11th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Walker’s Desperate Deal With Foxconn - Bruce Murphy - Aug 10th, 2017
- Foxconn Deal Flounders in State Legislature - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 10th, 2017
- If ‘Ifs’ and ‘Buts’ Are Candies and Nuts We’ll Have Foxconn Deal Paid Off in 2043 - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 9th, 2017
- Rep. Shankland: Statement on Foxconn Analysis - State Rep. Katrina Shankland - Aug 8th, 2017
- Foxconn Fiscal Analysis Deeply Troubling for Wisconsin Taxpayers - State Rep. David Crowley - Aug 8th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on New Fiscal Analysis of Proposed Foxconn Deal - State Rep. Peter Barca - Aug 8th, 2017
- Rep. Hintz Statement on Foxconn Cost to Taxpayers - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Aug 8th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: Bill Has $10 Million Giveaway to Fiserv - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Aug 8th, 2017
- Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce Calls For Foxconn Project to Include Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses - Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce - Aug 7th, 2017
- Wisconsin Budget: The High Cost of Foxconn - Jon Peacock - Aug 4th, 2017
- What Does the Foxconn CEO Say About His Employees? - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 4th, 2017
- Foxconn Hearing: Big Promises, Little Details, Lacks Transportation Plan - State Rep. David Crowley - Aug 3rd, 2017
- One Wisconsin Now Testimony on Foxconn Subsidy Legislation - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 3rd, 2017
- No Guarantees to Prevent Wisconsin Tax Dollars From Subsidizing Illinois Jobs in Foxconn Deal - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 2nd, 2017
- Unnecessary to Sacrifice Natural Resources for Foxconn - Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters - Jul 31st, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on Foxconn Developments - State Rep. Peter Barca - Jul 28th, 2017
- The Contrarian: Walker’s Reelection Now A Certainty - George Mitchell - Jul 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Foxconn Loves Wisconsin, Walker - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 27th, 2017
- Governor Walker, Foxconn Founder and CEO Terry Gou Sign Memorandum of Understanding in Milwaukee - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 27th, 2017
- REALTORS® Welcome Foxconn - Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® - Jul 27th, 2017
- MATC Statement on Foxconn - Milwaukee Area Technical College - Jul 26th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on Foxconn Economic Development Announcement - State Rep. Peter Barca - Jul 26th, 2017
- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele Statement on Foxconn Announcement - County Executive Chris Abele - Jul 26th, 2017
- Global High-Tech Manufacturer Foxconn Announces $10 Billion Investment, Will Create 13,000 Jobs in New Wisconsin Campus - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 26th, 2017
- Foxconn Frenzy: Proceed with Caution - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jul 26th, 2017
- Shilling cautious on Foxconn announcement - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Jul 26th, 2017
- Op Ed: Loss of Talgo Train Hurts Foxconn Deal - James Rowen - Jul 20th, 2017
- Mayor Barrett Supports Siting Foxconn Facility in Southeastern Wisconsin - Mayor Tom Barrett - Jul 17th, 2017
- On the Air: How Likely Is It Foxconn Will Create 10,000 Jobs? - Urban Milwaukee - Jul 13th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Walker Building Yesterday’s Economy - Bruce Murphy - Jul 13th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Foxconn Lands in Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2017