With what may end up being one of the largest private development projects in state history, the announcement that Foxconn plans to build a major factory in Wisconsin was among one of the biggest economic development stories for the state in 2017.
Rumors began circulating in late spring that the Taiwanese electronics company was eyeing sites in Wisconsin as the possible home for a major LCD panel factory…a potential $10 billion investment that could create 13,000 jobs. While dropping hints about the possibility of the company coming to the state, officials were relatively tight lipped about specific details until a White House ceremony in late July, where Foxconn owner Terry Gou announced plans to build in Wisconsin. At the time, Gou said he was confident that the project would be a great success.
To get Foxconn to build here though, the state planned to offer the company up to $3 billion in incentives. State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) was among Democrats worried about spending that kind of money to attract a foreign company. During debate in the Senate this fall, he said the legislation would send money to a company that’s “promising a certain number of jobs…maybe.”
Republicans noted many of the credits are tied to Foxconn actually creating its promised jobs though, and defended the incentives as necessary to get the company to seriously consider Wisconsin. Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel also argued to lawmakers that the investment could transform the state’s economy. “This project is a once in a generation, maybe once in a century opportunity for our state,” he told lawmakers during a public hearing.
The Legislature signed off on the incentive package with bipartisan support from southeastern Wisconsin Democrats. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation then signed a deal with Foxconn this fall. The company has selected a site in Mount Pleasant where it hopes to begin construction soon, although the factory likely will not be up and running until 2022.