Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Robin Vos Will Solve Foxconn Fiasco

Assembly Speaker has toured the plant and Foxconn is definitely, probably manufacturing… something.

By - Feb 2nd, 2021 03:21 pm
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. File photo by Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. File photo by Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Last week Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced that he had appointed himself to the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 

The WEDC decision to withhold tax credits to Foxconn because of changes in what the company promised to do is “a bunch of B.S,” Vos told reporter Ricardo Torres. “This is just them looking for a loophole.”

Vos wants to make sure that Foxconn is “treated fairly,” he went on, with “a deal that, more or less, stuck to the original goals that we set.” 

Well, Mr. Speaker, the deal certainly couldn’t be more than the original goals. Recall that back in July 2017, Foxconn signed an understanding, later codified in state legislation, that it would invest $10 billion, create 13,000 jobs and build a 20-million-square foot campus. More than three and a half years later, the campus is down to one-twentieth that size, the total jobs are in the hundreds (with many since laid off) and the investment the company claims (and has not been verified by the state) is $750 million.

That’s less. Much much less. 

Vos is also more or less flexible as to what the company is actually manufacturing. “Does the taxpayer care if they’re making a TV or a circuit board? It doesn’t really matter,” he declared.

But back when Republicans were touting the largest subsidy ever given by an American government to a foreign company, the Foxconn deal was called “the eighth wonder of the world” by President Donald Trump. It was described this way by Gov. Scott Walker: “Foxconn will have a transformational effect for generations to come in much the same way Silicon Valley transformed the San Francisco Bay Area and the Research Triangle transformed North Carolina. We’re calling it ‘Wisconn Valley.’”

Walker’s plan offered the largest per-job subsidy ever promised by Wisconsin, which would have risen to as much as $611,000 per job.  But this was worth it because it would create another Silicon Valley in Wisconsin. 

Now, it seems, any jobs will do for Vos and the taxpayers should open their wallets. “All that really matters is how many people they employ and what they pay them,” he declared. 

Vos is apparently unbothered by the constant changes by Foxconn, from building a massive Gen 10.5 LCD manufacturing plant to a dramatically scaled-down Gen 6 LCD plant, which it has been promising now for three years and has yet to happen. The company has meanwhile flirted with plans to make everything from airport coffee kiosks to fish farming and dairy exporting. 

Vos is himself a businessman, owner of Rojo’s Popcorn and the RJV Car Wash companies. And he recently had a tour of Foxconn’s plant in Mount Pleasant. And what did the experienced businessman see?

You might think he saw ventilators being made. Foxconn announced last April that it would partner with Medtronics to make ventilators, with a goal of manufacturing 400 ventilators per week by the end of April and 700 per week by May 2020.  Considering the number of COVID-19 cases has exploded in America since then, you’d think Foxconn’s ventilator business would be booming. 

Nope. More than nine months later there is no sign of any such products being manufactured by Foxconn. Which apparently doesn’t bother Vos because he saw employees building “circuit boards,” though just one line of manufacturing equipment was operating “while another five lines had equipment needing to be installed,” Torres reported.

How many employees did Vos see? Did he ask when the company expected to build out those other five lines needing equipment? Did he ask what company these circuit boards were being built for?

The latter question seems particularly relevant since an unnamed “source” floated a story back in November that Foxconn would be making circuit boards for Google. Except that Foxconn wouldn’t confirm this, nor would Google. Yet the source quoted by Bloomberg predicted Foxconn would be ramping up major manufacturing effort by early 2021. 

All of which has the sound of yet another fairy tale floated by Foxconn to the media. The company reinforced that story by showing Vos some employees making circuit boards and that was all it took, apparently, to sell him on giving Foxconn a subsidy. “I know Foxconn is going to be a huge deal,” he insisted. 

Back in the real world, the WEDC and Evers administration have been working for nearly two years to amend the contract with Foxconn so it reflects the actual manufacturing the company is doing, rather than the countless claims it has made since July 2017. 

Back on December 19 Foxconn released a statement saying it was “optimistic” a contract would be signed soon, but that appeared to more PR spin by the company.  WEDC CEO Missy Hughes offered a different view: “For Foxconn, because they’re right at the beginning stages, there’s a lot of different ways that they’re thinking about what they’re going to be working on, whether it’s artificial intelligence or smart manufacturing.” So more three and half years after Foxconn signed a contract with the state, it is still at the beginning stages trying to figure out what it will manufacture. 

Which, according to Robin Vos, is enough to justify a state subsidy. 

7 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Robin Vos Will Solve Foxconn Fiasco”

  1. blurondo says:

    Vos made the wrong move. Based on his extensive business acumen he should have appointed himself to the Foxconn board.

  2. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Vos is a useful tool for IP being stolen by China.

  3. George Wagner says:

    Keep up the good work, Bruce. Nobody does FoxCon ! like you.

  4. MilwMike1 says:

    Hahahaha. If he wants to own it, I think he should. That might springboard him to the Governor’s mansion. Which mansion? Who knows, but surely not ours.

  5. 45 years in the City says:

    As someone with no engineering or manufacturing background, Foxconn could easily impress him with a veritable
    Potemkin village of supposed high technology.

  6. Mingus says:

    I am really surprised that the Democrats did not make this a major campaign issue State wide. I think some rural voters who wonder why there is no funding for local economic development might take notice that their elected Representatives in Madison got played by a scheme that a middle school student could figure out.

  7. SiddyMonty says:

    Land grab, broken promises. This should have been an American company there in the first place.

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