Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn is confronting “market forces in a Twitter world,” and while plans for its massive Racine County campus are evolving, a good outcome is still possible, said Tim Sheehy, president of the Milwaukee chamber.
MMAC President Sheehy appeared Sunday on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” after what he described as a “topsy-turvy” week for Foxconn in Wisconsin. “UpFront” is produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
The week saw Foxconn first say that it would shift from manufacturing to a research and development hub in Mount Pleasant, only to reverse course on Friday after talking to President Trump and recommit to a Gen 6 manufacturing plant, making smaller screens in Racine County.
Sheehy, who is in contact with Foxconn executives, said the company’s Wisconsin project has changed since it was first announced two years ago. He said “market forces have intervened.”
“What’s important is they are looking at what they are going to manufacture here, not if they are going to manufacture,” Sheehy said.
“We need to view this as a factory for the future. They are developing technology in some cases that’s not even on the market. So, in any event this is going to be a high-tech, high skill environment in which to work, whether you are on the plant floor or doing engineering,” Sheehy said.
Gousha asked why taxpayers should take the company’s word.
“I understand the angst about a changing story, but what we’ve got is a solid contract that only pays for jobs and capital investment that are made,” Sheehy said.
Sheehy also said Gov. Tony Evers “has been nothing but professional” in dealing with Foxconn, a $3 billion deal he inherited from the Walker administration.
In another segment, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, a critic of the Foxconn deal, said the state needs more transparency and accountability from Foxconn.
“One of the biggest problems with this project has been the fact that, no matter what’s happening, it’s ‘aw, 13,000 jobs, $10 billion of investment.’ This is a company with a terrible track record of overpromising and under-delivering in other countries, in other states, and right now I think the perception that Wisconsin is just the latest state to get burned,” Hintz said in an interview recorded on Friday morning, before Foxconn publicly recommitted to manufacturing in Wisconsin.
“Let’s have the company come forward (with) what we can expect, what those jobs will be tied to, and what level of subsidy taxpayers can expect,” Hintz said.
Also on the program, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel business reporter Rick Romell described what’s happening on the ground with Foxconn in Mount Pleasant, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Eau Claire.
He also detailed the company’s history of plans that never came together in Pennsylvania, Brazil, and Vietnam.