By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Right before our eyes, the deal is changing. Large liquid crystal displays have been switched to smaller panels. The priority of hiring 9,817 hourly workers, as a part of a promised 13,000 new hires has taken a back burner to bringing in the estimated 2,363 engineers. And yes, American workers may be swapped out for Chinese workers to fill jobs in what the Walker administration was happy to dub Wisconn Valley.
By now, many of you are trying to reconcile what we were told about the more than $3 billion dollar deal that Scott Walker and the majority of Republican members of the legislature entered into to entice the Foxconn Technology Company to build a 22-million-square-foot liquid-crystal display panel plant, in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin. With the promise of 13,000 jobs and great talking points for an upcoming re-election bid, there has been an undeniable effort to ignore the shifting promises, hiring red flags and questionable outcomes for this massive state deal.
Confidence among area residents is weakening as rumors of increased automation, word that production hires won’t start until 2020, and reports that Wisconsin applicants have not been given preferential consideration in recent job fairs. Whether we are talking about a change in the products produced in Wisconn Valley and if that will impact the original plant footprint and needed workforce, there is room for concern. Couple those things with grumblings that Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has reportedly been trying to get Chinese engineers to relocate from China to work in Wisconn Valley is just another reason to demand intense monitoring and possible re-evaluations of this deal.
While local municipalities have infused more than $750 million into additional preparation for the Foxconn plant, there should have been comprehensive projections about the needed labor force and Wisconsin’s ability to meet those demands. This deal was rushed, critical voices were not allowed a seat at the table, business norms and requirements were ignored or waived, all in an effort to take an early victory lap.
My fear has been and remains that Wisconsin is going to get left holding the bag. If they don’t create the projected jobs, we could be paying a ridiculous amount in incentives for each job created. Bottom line, Donald Trump, Scott Walker and Paul Ryan trumpeted the benefits of this agreement across the state as a game changer for Wisconsin residents. So far, the trail of good fortune seems to actually lead back to Taiwan.