Gov. Tony Evers says Foxconn, Wisconsin on brink of new deal; WEDC to meet Tuesday to discuss project

The Foxconn complex in Mount Pleasant is shown on Monday, April 19, 2021. Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that his administration and Foxconn officials have reached an agreement on new terms and that the new deal will go before the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board of directors for approval on Tuesday.

MADISON – Wisconsin and Foxconn are on the brink of a new agreement over the tech giant’s role in the Badger State, which so far has failed to live up to a $3 billion deal struck by Republicans and company officials four years ago. 

Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that his administration and Foxconn officials have reached an agreement on new terms and that the new deal will go before the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board of directors for approval on Tuesday. 

“I’ve said all along that my goal as governor would be to find an agreement that works for Wisconsin taxpayers while providing the support Foxconn needs to be successful here in our state,” Evers said in a statement. 

The WEDC declined to comment on the proposed deal citing its policy of not commenting on negotiations with companies before board approval. 

Evers did not provide details of the new agreement.

 Foxconn  Board Chairman Jay Lee said the company “began formal negotiations with a desire to lower taxpayer liability in exchange for the flexibility to pursue business opportunities (that) meet market demand,” according to the governor’s office statement.

In a statement, officials from Racine County and the village of Mount Pleasant said, “We are pleased the state and Foxconn have reached an agreement and look forward to continued progress on the campus in Racine County.”

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said it is “difficult to comment on a deal that I haven’t seen,” but called Foxconn a “great partner for Mount Pleasant, Racine County, and Wisconsin.”

“It is the largest taxpayer in Racine County, and employs hundreds of people. It remains a nucleus for our area and economic development,” Wanggaard said in a statement. “Foxconn seeking to amend their existing agreement to allow for greater flexibility, growth, and stability in this rapidly changing post-pandemic environment shows their commitment to Wisconsin and the southeast Wisconsin area.”

Wanggaard, who represents the area that includes the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant, added that the Foxconn development “should never have become politicized.”

“I am hopeful that the days of politicizing the Foxconn development are over,” Wanggaard said. “With that, I am very optimistic that this means great things for our local and state economy in the coming months and years.”

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said in a statement he is “encouraged” by the announcement of a deal and is looking forward to learning more about the deal at the WEDC meeting on Tuesday.

“I share Gov. Evers’ goal of having a realistic and accountable contract that can lead to new jobs and protect taxpayers going forward,” Hintz said. “State and local taxpayers have already spent over a billion dollars on a project with little to show more than three years later. It is my hope that any new contract brings better transparency and clarity from Foxconn going forward.”

On Sunday while appearing on “UpFront” on WISN-TV, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Evers was “playing politics” with the development and that Foxconn is “meeting all the goals that we set.” 

“Foxconn is making concessions because they are having their back up against the wall even though they are meeting the goals that were set by the last administration and by the legislation we enacted,” Vos said, referring to the original deal signed by then Republican Gov. Scott Walker and backed by Republicans in the Legislature. “The governor doesn’t seem to want to keep the state’s deal, which is why he’ll come forward with a new proposal.”

State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, said in a statement “times have changed since 2017” and officials should be mindful of how taxpayer funds are being used for business development “as we recover from a pandemic.” 

“I hope that this new agreement will lead to the good, family-supporting jobs our area and the entire state was promised when Foxconn first approached our state, and I will continue to monitor the situation as this new agreement moves forward,” Neubauer said. 

Original plan scrapped

Wisconsin officials and Foxconn have been negotiating a new agreement for months after the company changed course from its 2017 pledge to build a 10.5-generation LCD manufacturing facility capable of making large screens, and hire up to 13,000 people around the state. 

In exchange, the state secured the land and infrastructure for the massive Racine County project and promised to provide up to $2.85 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the company.

The glass panels are cleaned on the High-Performance Computing Data Center Globe at the Foxconn complex in Mount Pleasant on Monday, April 19, 2021. Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that his administration and Foxconn officials have reached an agreement on new terms and that the new deal will go before the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors for approval on Tuesday.

The state also provided up to $150 million in sales tax breaks. Other incentives total about $1 billion. That brings the total cost of the deal for state and local governments to about $4 billion.

Foxconn scaled back its plans to a Gen 6 facility that could make smaller screens for TVs, smartphones and tablets, but that project also never took off. 

The company hasn’t received any direct cash payments from the state, but has benefited from millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements. The new deal will likely include a smaller tax incentive package.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.