Op Ed

Why Democrats Should Embrace Foxconn

It will lead to economic expansion and more good jobs for average Wisconsinites.

By - May 21st, 2018 10:20 am
Foxconn chairman Terry Gou and Governor Scott Walker signing a memorandum of understanding. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Foxconn chairman Terry Gou and Governor Scott Walker signing a memorandum of understanding. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

The current line-up of Democratic candidates for governor remind me of some relatives who would visit my parents on lazy Sunday afternoons. Somehow the topic of the weather always would come up and no one ever seemed pleased with it. One aunt in particular always thought it too windy. She seemed unaware the wind allowed for my kites to take flight in the grassy fields.

Meanwhile the candidates seeking the party nomination seem to be fixated on Foxconn, the economic powerhouse planned for Racine County. They seem to be unable–or unwilling–to consider that this new enterprise is the exact type of updraft our state economy could really use. As a consequence, some Democratic voters are wondering what to do when it comes to the summer primary.

The constant scorn and ridicule against Foxconn by the candidates runs counter to what some voters consider to be the only shining example of leadership shown by Governor Scott Walker. While I understand the need for a candidate to connect with voters and curry favor for the primary, I also sincerely wish that Democrats would carry a message about the greater long-term benefits that this liquid crystal display manufacturing campus would bring to our state. I wish there would be a complete presentation about Foxconn which includes the fact our state got a deal that works to our benefit. Foxconn’s investment in Mount Pleasant came without the state needing to pay significant up-front costs. Furthermore, state money comes only after the jobs are created.

I have not been able to line up with any of the numerous candidates seeking the nomination. As a politico it has been hard to sit back and not align with someone–especially given the political climate which greets us hourly (it seems) with a new outrage. While I have deep feelings about the troubling outcomes regarding voter ID, Act 10, and school vouchers I also have a deep regret that the candidates seem unwilling to grasp the many benefits that Foxconn will create for our state.

As I have watched the months pass, and the dialogue only harden it appears that state Democrats might have a problem similar to Republicans. Having long argued that Republicans need to better work at their ability to compromise, it is also apparent that Democrats need to embrace pragmatism. Policy choices that can be sold as a middle path going forward, so to avoid the deep rancor that follows purely partisan moves, is what always best serves citizens. Each of the parties has failed to achieve what our state most needs when it comes to the art of governing.

When it comes to Foxconn it seems–from the perspective of this desk– that candidates want to find a wedge issue from which to showcase themselves. For instance, I am a decades-long admirer of Matt Flynn. I served as his Door County Chair during his bid for the U.S. Senate. I know Flynn to be smart, gracious, and having the leadership qualities that would serve him well in the statehouse. But I am flummoxed by his stand on Foxconn. I really want to support him but can not square how he lacks vision about this matter.

Candidates say the money spent on Foxconn could have made countless investments in small businesses or in educational projects. To them I would argue the same as about the flaw in GOP tax plans. Providing smaller amounts of money scattered about does not have the powerful economic impact that concentrated money, and policy direction allows for when it comes to the larger social need.

Democrats correctly talk about those who do not have the job they wish, are under-employed, or are unable to meet their needs because of wages that are too low. Many of those struggling are parents who grasp the fact the jobs of the future for their children are the type that Foxconn will bring to the state–and still more that will spin off as a result. That latter point is already happening as Tom Still pointed out in the Wisconsin State Journal.

The company announced 28 subcontractors and suppliers for the town of Mount Pleasant project May 7, and all but one of those companies is based in Wisconsin. The only non-Wisconsin firm is a trucking company in Rockford, Ill., just across the border.

Those contractors and suppliers will tackle about $100 million worth of work in the opening phase of the Foxconn project and draw their workers, directly and indirectly, from 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties — in cities such as Black River Falls in the west, Marathon in central Wisconsin, Neenah and Seymour in the Fox Valley, and across southeast Wisconsin.

Those companies will work with general contractors M+W and Gilbane as the Racine County project, projected to be the size of 11 Lambeau Fields, embarks on what is likely to be a four-year buildout.

But what we can not see at this time, but which will follow in the months and years to come, is the economic stimulation that this focused proposal will have on the state’s economy. During the debate in the state legislature one of the points made that should not be discounted is that Foxconn has a record of producing robust healthy economic outcomes for the places where they have a factory. Though it is true I am an optimist by nature it needs to be underscored that facts clearly show how Foxconn has created not only good paying jobs but also economic expansion for the regions where they set up a business site.

The focal point of state candidates should be how to steer our educational system to meet the needs of the tech era. Making sure our fellow citizens are prepared for the skilled jobs of the future, and get the assistance they need to meet the challenges of the modern world, can not be over-stated.

Instead we hear about Foxconn and the undermining of this public-private partnership. The very type of partnership which we need more of across our state. Lets use the campaign to address why these combined interests can work to secure good jobs and lift our tax base, instead of undermining the use of tax incentives–something that is done all over the nation. Make that the world.

I sincerely want a new governor–a Democratic governor! But I also want honest objective discussions about where our economy is headed, how jobs can be created, and the ways to educate future workers. Though I am not a one-issue voter I also am not able to throw aside facts and logic for a political bandwagon headed in the wrong direction.

Gregory Humphrey writes for the Caffeinated Politics blog

Categories: Business, Op-Ed, Politics

13 thoughts on “Op Ed: Why Democrats Should Embrace Foxconn”

  1. michael says:

    There are things worth more than jobs. At the end of the day, the value of a place is its social capital. That is, its neighborhoods, sense of fairness, platforms for wealth creation, creativity & authenticity.

    When we invest in our neighborhoods, create options for the option-less, foster a business environment that supports small business, promote new ideas & experimentation, and act in a way that makes us as proud of our present and future as we are of our past, we create a place that’s vibrant. Jobs, quality of place, and well-being will follow. This is a generational investment that does none of those things.

  2. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    The problem isn’t that Foxconn might create jobs.

    The problem is the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS THOSE JOBS WILL COST, the damage to the environment that will result, and the obvious pay-for-play corruption that’s involved in the contracts being handed out.

    Wet noodles like Humphrey are why Dems lose. Go have another latte, old man.

  3. Dumbledore says:

    The creation of a new Foxconn plant is not the problem. It’s the dedication of more than $4 billion of public resources.

    What else could $4 billion have provided for Wisconsin? Consider the following 2017-19 biennial budget amounts for state agencies that are directly involved in supporting economic activity in the state:
    – The entire Ag, Trade & Consumer Protection budget is about $200 million
    – The entire DNR biennial budget is about $1.1 billion
    – The state transportation budget this year includes more than $400 million in borrowing alone
    – State funds allocated to the Wisconsin Technical College system are about $1.1 billion
    – The Workforce Development budget is about $700 million

    That all adds up to about $3.5 billion total – still less than the Foxconn investment.

  4. daniel golden says:

    Humphrey either is ignorant of or deliberately ignores the track record for environmental destruction that trails Foxconn. Foxconn has worn out its welcome in even pollution tolerant China, where it has poisoned two of the main tributaries to the Yangtze River, the main drinking water source for Shanghai. They have failed to file a water treatment plan for the water to be returned to Lake Michigan which should be particularly concerning as to the poisonous heavy metals they will generate. Their owner thinks workers are to be treated as animals, by his own statements. Can anyone seriously argue that spending 4 billion Wisconsin taxpayer dollars with a 35 year possible payback, most of which funds will go directly to a foreign Chinese company, is a better use of our monies than dealing with the 49th worse roads in the nation? The common folk I talk to on my fishing trips around rural Wisconsin think this whole fiasco is a scam and Walker is taking us suckers for a ride.

  5. Terry says:

    Lies, lies, lies…
    No more Corporate Welfare for a FOREIGN company! No more of our tax dollars squandered by Career Politician Scott Walker and Trumpty Dumpty for crappy, slave wage, faux-benefits part time manufacturing “jobs.”! No more selling out our children by handing over 4.5 Billion of our and THEIR money on a Corporate Welfare subsidized republican BOONDOGGLE!


    Dump Walker 2018!
    Let’s build a REAL economy instead of trying to buy one from China.
    Dump Walker 2018!

  6. David Ciepluch says:

    Foxconn is an epic foxy scam of over $4 billion in benefits. Essentially everyone is the state is paying their employee wages for over 40 years.

    This is over $4 Billion stolen from education, roads across the state and urban areas that are the worst in the nation.

    It represents the worst from of corporate welfare at the expense of all sense of decency and fairness.

  7. Lou Kaye says:

    What would Fighting Bob La Follette say about Walker’s deal with Foxconn?

  8. Troll says:

    What could $4 billion be invested in public investments? More white,male public school teachers preying on girls. Give more money to billionaire Jeff Bezos so public servants can deliver Amazon packages. Hire more cops, public lawyers and judges to invest in black male incarceration. Invest in solar panels on Miller Park. Give women free university tuition if they attain a STEM degree so men cannot dominate engineering. Invest in a time machine so, we can stop the dominance of men in innovation and swap them for a woman. Example, prevent Steve Jobs from joining Apple and Pixar animation and instead place a woman there. Replace NASCAR great driver Jimmy Johnson with Aaron Rodger’s girlfriend Danica Patrick. Who was only famous because of her gender?

  9. Mark E. Bye says:

    Why we can’t have nice things.

  10. Jeff Weiner says:

    Troll you just can’t help posting asinine comments. Go kiss your Trump/Walker/Ryan picture to make yourself feel better.

  11. LISA WOLTERS says:

    When we play the game of buying businesses to locate in the state and allow environmental pollution from one plant it ups the ante for the next business to locate here. Eventually we will be paying much of our earnings in taxes to support jobs and to pay investors in industires that pollute the place we live in. We starve our education and infrastructure systems of the cash they need to spur the innovation and development of the future. Yeah, Foxconn WI is a WIN for its investors but not for the residents of the area or the state or the region.

  12. Rich says:

    @daniel golden ” The common folk I talk to on my fishing trips around rural Wisconsin think this whole fiasco is a scam and Walker is taking us suckers for a ride.”

    Enough of a ride that they’ll change who they vote for in November?

  13. Terry says:

    Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans blowing 4.5 billion on Corporate Welfare for a Chinese company is already an unmitigated disaster for the state of Wisconsin and now reports are FoxCON is already downsizing its plans for the state. They have a long storied history of such behavior but dumbass Wisconsin republicans are too tribal and hate-filled to see it. Where are the true fiscal conservatives? 4.5 Billion in Corporate Welfare for foreign companies SUCKS while we can’t even drive on our roads anymore thanks to all these Scottholes everywhere!? But hey I hear the roads by FoxCON will be great! What a surprise Career Politician Scott Walker named his campaign donor to helm the project….corrupt crony capitalism at its worst. Hey republicans, I heard FoxCON is having a new IPO, in CHINA!!! Get in quick before its too late commies. You can’t go broke when you are subsidized by taxpayers making 7.50 an hour, can you?

    Dump Walker 2018
    Let’s pave the roads and build a REAL economy

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