Home / Commentary / View from around the state: So far, few Foxconn dollars leaving SE Wisconsin

View from around the state: So far, few Foxconn dollars leaving SE Wisconsin

Take a map of Wisconsin that’s blank, with the exception of county borders and major municipalities.

Now, plot the headquarters sites of all 28 subcontractors chosen to work on the $100 million initial phase of the Foxconn project being built in Mount Pleasant. Although there are a few exceptions, a vast majority of the dots would be crowded into a small slice of southeastern Wisconsin.

Kudos to Hoffman Construction. The Black River Falls company earned a contract for mass excavation, stormwater and erosion-control work. It’s also one of the few companies based outside southeast Wisconsin to find work on the factory, which will be used to manufacture LCD screens. No other company out of west-central Wisconsin company is on the list.

“Today we are seeing more of the Foxconn bonus throughout Wisconsin,” Gov. Scott Walker said in statement. “It is great to see Wisconsin businesses and working families from all over our state benefiting from this historic investment.”

But, at least if one judges by looking solely at the first-phase allotment of work, that statement was made a little too early.

It’s important to stress that the announcement last week only pertained to $100 million of the project’s budget. With a total price tag of $10 billion, there’s significantly more money to be had for contractors.

Eau Claire in late April was the site of the last meeting in a series of 14 held throughout the state “to give potential contractors, subcontractors and suppliers information on the massive project and how they can get in on the bidding,” according to a Leader-Telegram story.

Those less enamored of the deal, including state Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, are also making their voices heard at a series of their own town-hall events.

“In less than a year, the public cost of this project has increased from an original estimate of $3 billion to $4.5 billion,” reads a news release. “These town hall events will offer local residents an opportunity to meet with state lawmakers, learn more about taxpayer liabilities and comment on recently identified environmental risks.”

To be sure, many people have questioned the incentives that were laid on the table to attract the Taiwan-based company.

“We’re skeptical the massive and unprecedented government handout will pay off for Wisconsin taxpayers,” the Wisconsin State Journal said in an editorial. “But the deal is signed and done. So we’ll hope for the best, including as many as 13,000 jobs going to mostly people who live in Wisconsin.”

Indeed, the investment may pay off for the state. If the first round of contractor deals is any indication, however, the benefits most likely won’t reach far outside southeast Wisconsin.

It should be noted that 27 of the 28 companies hired are based in Wisconsin. That’s a good thing. The one straggler is R.A. Seaton Contractor Services, which lies a short distance from Wisconsin’s southern border in Rockford, Illinois.

And James Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction, recent said “a very significant expansion for our company.” He expects to add 150 more seasonal workers this year than is the norm.

We’re just hopeful that future phases of the project will include a few more entries from outside of southeastern Wisconsin.

— From the Leader-Telegram

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