By David Wise
MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, completing weeks of negotiations, today signed a memorandum of understanding for a $10 billion plant touted by Republican leaders as a huge economic boost for the state and thousands of workers.
“We are ready for something like this like we have never been ready before,” Walker said.
Speaking with reporters after the event, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he hopes for legislative approval of the agreement by mid-August and that both parties can rally around the deal.
Vos, R-Rochester said Walker negotiated a good deal for taxpayers.
“Not a single dollar is going to go out the taxpayers’ pockets until a shovel is in the ground or a person’s getting their first paycheck. That what we want, good family-supporting jobs,” the Racine County Republican said. “I really think it’s a win, win,-win, but of course the Legislature will do its due diligence. We’ll review the program to make sure it meets our criteria, but right now I’m incredibly optimistic.”
In the MOU, Foxconn agrees to invest up to $10 billion to build the facility in two phases, one phase lasting four years and one two years. The company also agrees to create up to 13,000 jobs over six years.
The state, in turn, agrees to provide over 15 years up to $3 billion in incentives, expand tax incremental financing limits and expedite permitting for the project, among other provisions.
According to the MOU, negotiations first began during a meeting in Washington, D.C., April 28. The state submitted its first proposal to Foxconn June 2, and revised proposals on June 26 and July 12. The document calls for finalizing an agreement by Sept. 30.
Vos said the $3 billion is “a really big number,” but noted it’s paid out over 15 years and only when people are hired.
“I think that we offered a lower incentive package than other states did, so it could have gotten more expensive had we gotten into the bidding game,” Vos said.
During a signing ceremony at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Walker and Gou offered praise for each other and discussed the friendship they formed during Walker’s visit to Japan and Gou’s visit to Wisconsin.
Gou said among the reasons he chose Wisconsin for the plant was the quality of state leadership and the nature of the people in the Midwest.
Walker said Foxconn made the choice because Wisconsin was ready following reforms the state has made to improve the business climate and prepare the workforce.
Walker acknowledged the incentive package was bigger than anything the state has done before, but said it is comparable to what others have offered for projects of this size.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said he is to meet with Walker tomorrow to learn more details about the agreement.
Barca said that while $3 billion in an “eye-popping number,” it’s important to consider the return.
“You can’t just look at the cost of the package,” Barca said. “You have to look at what is the impact economically and how many jobs total are going to come forward as a result of this agreement.”
Barca said the deal has the potential to have an “enormous” economic impact in southeastern Wisconsin and may also boost suppliers all across the state.
Also speaking at the event was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who praised the investment and said the region’s water resources and manufacturing workforce played a part in Foxconn’s decision.