Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Will Foxconn Employ Any Milwaukeeans?

Despite nearly $4.1 billion subsidy, company only has goals, not mandates for hiring.

By - Apr 12th, 2018 04:25 pm
Alderman Robert Bauman speaks with the press following the Foxconn update. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Alderman Robert Bauman speaks with the press following the Foxconn update. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Common Council is attempting to engage electronics manufacturer Foxconn and state officials to create a pipeline for Milwaukee residents to get jobs at the proposed plant in southern Racine County.

The $10 billion Foxconn project promises to create 10,000 construction jobs and 13,000 permanent jobs. Conversely, while the state’s unemployment rate is at 2.9 percent, nine out of 15 aldermanic districts in Milwaukee have employment rates in excess of 10 percent.

Many of those unemployed Milwaukeeans are minorities. Or as Employ Milwaukee’s Willie Wade, a former alderman, puts it: “2.9 percent [unemployment] means that every white person in the state has a job.”

On the construction side of the project, general contractors Gilbane Building Co. and M-W Group, in partnership with Foxconn, have created hiring goals and are holding 14 meetings across the state to get people involved in the project.

Referring to Gilbane, Matt Maroney, the state’s Director of Strategic Economic Initiatives, said: “we want to mimic some of the things they did with the Northwestern Mutual building.”

Gilbane, in partnership with CG Schmidt and Northwestern Mutual, had an incredibly successful hiring program for previously unemployed city residents on the recently completed Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. The effort created 800 jobs.

Will such a thing happen with the Foxconn project?

Gilbane Vice President Adam R. Jelen told members of the Common Council’s powerful Steering and Rules Committee this morning that the lead contractors, in partnership with Foxconn, are hoping to hire Wisconsin-based contractors for 60 percent of the work, Racine County businesses for 10 percent of the work and a combined 10 percent of the work is expected to go to firms owned by minorities, women or military veterans.

As for project work hours, 70 percent of the hours are intended to go to Wisconsin residents, with an emphasis on Racine County residents. Ten percent of the work hours are intended to go to the combined group of minorities, women and military veterans. Vendors interested in working on the project’s construction or supply chain are encouraged to go the Wisconn Valley website.

“Why is that percentage so low, especially given that you’re combining the three of those categories together?” asked Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs.

Jelen said “it’s based on the capacity in the region.” He stressed that contractors have yet to be hired and that Gilbane is undertaking a gap analysis right now to better identify who could participate and at what level. He said a similar analysis was key to the Northwestern Mutual effort.

Ten percent of the estimated 10,000 construction jobs would create a combined 1,000 jobs for the three target groups. But unlike Milwaukee’s mandated job program when city money is provided, the Foxconn hiring program wouldn’t guarantee those residents are from Milwaukee or even Wisconsin residents, nor would they have to be recently unemployed.

That didn’t please Ald. Robert Bauman. The alderman has held a number of hearings on connecting workers to the project with public transit, and recently commissioned a Legislative Reference Bureau report on Foxconn and the project. Bauman compared reading the report to reading Upton Sinclair‘s book “The Jungle,” which deals with turn-of-the-century worker exploitation.

Calling the presentation by Maroney “propaganda,” Bauman asked him why the state didn’t include mandatory hiring levels in their deal with the company. “Doesn’t $4 billion worth of subsidy give the state more than a little leverage to mandate certain things?” asked the alderman.

Maroney responded: “you can look at it like you can mandate everything, or you can look at it like a partner and try to achieve something greater.”

“We want to be a team with the City of Milwaukee. We want to be a team with Waukesha County. We are going to need everyone,” said Maroney.

Maroney also confirmed the state has no current plans for public transportation as part of the project, and would prefer any solution to come forward from local government. “Transit, housing, those are all long-term issues. We are early,” said Maroney.

Attempting to play peacemaker in a meeting that was getting tense, Council President Ashanti Hamilton offered this thought: “in many ways the state identifying a minority hiring goal is a step further than where we are.” The city’s Residents Preference Program only looks at city residency and employment status, not whether the worker is a minority. A disparity study approved by the council in the latest city budget could change that in the future.

Hamilton’s olive branch to the state doesn’t mean the alderman is standing pat. “With the right type of partnership we could do a lot better than that,” said Hamilton about the 10 percent hiring goal.

Hamilton singled out Bernadette Karanja for praise. Karanja is the city’s Workforce Development Coordinator, a position funded by Hamilton’s office.

“There are some things that have happened here that give us a line of communication that we didn’t have before,” added Wade. He noted that with his switch from the city to Employ Milwaukee, and Karanja’s reverse move, communication lines are open that weren’t before. Chytania Brown also went from Employ Milwaukee to the state’s Department of Workforce Development, and has worked extensively on the Foxconn project.

However, shortly after the meeting, news broke that Wade’s boss, Earl Buford, would be leaving Employ Milwaukee for a job in Pittsburgh, PA.

Will Trump Attend Groundbreaking?

One thing to watch for in the coming month is a presidential groundbreaking. Bauman says he has heard a mid-May groundbreaking is planned with President Donald Trump in attendance. When asked, Maroney said that would be news to him.

Trump has inserted himself into the process before. According to his former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Trump was shown a site in Kenosha via helicopter on a visit to the state in April 2017 and pitched Foxconn on Wisconsin in a subsequent meeting at the White House.

Bauman’s Displeasure with Foxconn’s Absence

Bauman wasn’t pleased that official representatives of Foxconn didn’t appear at the meeting. He said that Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy called at 8:50 a.m. to say that company representatives would be unable to appear at the 9 a.m. meeting.

Foxconn’s absence created an awkward situation early in the meeting where Jelen explained that the current hiring process applies to the Foxconn project’s first phase, but that he wasn’t able to estimate how big the buildings involved would be or how many people would be employed for that phase.

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11 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Will Foxconn Employ Any Milwaukeeans?”

  1. Troll says:

    Bob Bauman, will not be satisfied until Fox Con pays 5,000 Uber Drivers to take Milwaukee city workers to Racine County back and forth on the State of Wisconsin dime. Taiwanese representatives were suppose to be in discussions with Bobby Boy over a Racine County business. Me thinks, Bobby thinks to much of himself.

  2. Donna says:

    I really have no claim to math or business skills, but I just see a con, Please inform me if I’m wrong.

    “Gilbane Vice President Adam R. Jelen told members of the Common Council’s powerful Steering and Rules Committee this morning that the lead contractors, in partnership with Foxconn, are hoping to hire Wisconsin-based contractors for 60 percent of the work, Racine County businesses for 10 percent of the work and a combined 10 percent of the work is expected to go to firms owned by minorities, women or military veterans.”

    If I do the math:

    Wi- based contractors 60%
    Racine County contractors (who are already included as WI based) 10%
    Combined WI minorities, women, vets (also included as WI based) 10%

    This means 40% of contracting is not WI based.
    The 10% for Racine and 10% for minorities, women, vets are 10% of 60%
    not 10% 0f 100%

    So if you have 1,000 workers, 400 will be out of state, 10% of 600 WI (60) will be from Racine.
    A very sad 10% of 600 (60) will represent all WI minorities, women, vets

    So out of 1000 workers on the shop floor you’re likely to see 20/1000 each of minorities, women, vets or 2/100, (2%) and 60/1000 (6%) Racine natives.

  3. Dragonkat says:

    Will FoxConn hire people from Milwaukee: NO
    Will FoxConn hire people from Racine: NO
    Will FoxConn hire people of color: NO
    Will FoxConn hire SE WI resident’s: NO

  4. Allison says:

    Jeremy is right and I feel very sorry for Foxconn for missing the meeting. The company really missed an opportunity to learn so much from the super smart and brilliant financial and technological minds on the ‘powerful city of milwaukee rules and steering committee’. I mean everyone on that super powerful committee has surely run a business and employed people. I mean, they like know what it’s like to meet payroll and create jobs. Foxconn would be dumb to not listen to the brilliant Bob Bauman. Of course, the super smart people on that committee have solved so many problems in Milwaukee so they know how to get things done, right Jeremy. Taxes are down, crime is down, lead in the water is down, poverty is down and test scores are up. Due to the wealth of real world experience on the ‘powerful rules and steering committee’ (Jeremy’s words, not mine) they’ll definitely be able to tell global companies like Foxconn the right way to run their businesses and everyone will be happy (Soon other global technology companies will be moving to Wisconsin to gain access to Jeremy and the powerful rules and steering committees knowledge). Thank you to Jeremy and the powerful city rules and steering committee for offering their substantial business backgrounds and technological knowledge to Foxconn. Who will be the next company to move here?

  5. Aggie says:

    It really doesn’t matter what percentages are used for this discussion, since there is no contractual obligation for Foxconn to abide by these numbers. They will do what they want, with who they want, with no legal repercussions. That is the deal that our voted in leaders made with this corporate giant and you can bet that they will take full advantage of it. The only way to make a difference is at the voting booth this fall.

  6. dk says:

    You mean like the super smart business person Scott Walker is? $4 billion of our tax dollars to a private company, which sets a precedent for other companies to ask for massive handouts. I’ll bet if the City of Milwaukee Common Council wouldn’t have been suckers for such an amazing deal that has limited environmental protections, no guarantee to hire disadvantaged workers, that will cost the state $200,000 per job.

  7. Terry says:

    Dragonkat is 100% CORRECT! But I’d like to add, FoxCON will hire people in Northern Wisconsin: NO! But our TAXES are going up!

    Dump Walker 2018
    We have all been FOXCONNED!

  8. Robert Bauman says:


    For the record, I owned and operated a startup business in the 1980’s that, at its peak, employed 85 industrial workers and had a payroll of $2M. So yes, I have met a payroll. I was also a practicing attorney for several decades representing small and medium size businesses in a wide range of legal and business matters. Before casting stones, check your facts.

  9. Jake currently of the MKE says:

    The MMAC, not only helping to keep walker and his cronies in power who have used Milwaukee as a scapegoat and taken away needed revenue has already proven a failure to get milwaukeans jobs.

    All the MMAC wants it to keep workers from having rights and a higher minimum wage.

  10. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    Allison and Troll seem like a good match.

  11. Terry says:

    @Allison. Answer: Nobody, unless of course Career Politician Scott Walker hands over another 4.5 Billion in corporate welfare to some other third world country tv screen manufacturer. FoxCON is not a technology company. It is a manufacturing contractor for technology companies honey. Big big difference! Apple, google, microsoft, Amazon are all innovative technology companies. FoxCON is a low pay, slave wage third world screen manufacturer. Sorry, Walker Foxconned Wisconsin and idiot republicans just lap up the taxes and corporate welfare for a Taiwainese, ahem, Chinese company! You can’t make this sh#t up. Only, in Walker’s Wississippi…fools.

    Dump Walker 2018

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