Proposed Foxconn Deal Could Create Potential Winners and Losers

Aug 8, 2017

A legislative committee could vote this week on Gov. Walker's plan to offer Foxconn $3 billion in incentives. 

The Taiwanese company is planning to build a plant in southeastern Wisconsin to manufacture LCD screens. Walker has focused on what the state could gain in the deal -- up to 13,000 jobs. Skeptical lawmakers have raised a number of concerns, including about who'll get the jobs at the plant, and the fact that Walker wants to ease environmental regulations for Foxconn.

For some people, Gov. Walker has already pulled off a major feat, which could solidify his reelection next November. Others say things aren't so clear cut. Mordecai Lee is a professor of governmental affairs at UW-Milwaukee. He says there are potential winners and losers in the proposed Foxconn deal, and defining them depends on your vantage point.

“For conservative Republicans who support Governor Walker they see one list of winners and losers. And for people who are left of center, the Democrats in the state legislature, they see it differently,” Lee says.

Lee says predicting who'll win and lose depends on unknown factors.

In politics, tomorrow is unpredictable, let alone November of 2018. In other words, this might go down easily in the state legislature, it might get amended. The project might go forward, it might not go forward. There might be lawsuit about environmental issues, there might not be. It might turn into a smashing success, it might turn into a disaster,” Lee says.

Lee says what could play a large role in determining political winners and losers is who’s hired to work at the huge plant. Will they be the people that voters want to see get jobs?

“Will everyone need to be a college graduate in let’s say, computer science or will it be for people who are relatively unskilled, people with only a high school education. There’s a lot of lack of clarity about that and I think that might be the way to really judge this in the sense of will these jobs go to people who right now are underemployed? Will it really stimulate the state,” Lee says.

Lee says because lawmakers can't predict what will happen, they just have to let the situation unfold. And that could take more than the year and three months left before the next gubernatorial election. Charles Franklin is director of the Marquette Poll. He says politically, Foxconn could help Gov. Walker win, because it will be too early to judge the Foxconn deal as a success or failure.

“I think the economic benefits are going to take a while because the factory has to be built, it has to hire people, it has to ramp up production. All of that will be in the relatively distant future, certainly after the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Franklin says.

Franklin says the jury is still out on what the state Legislature will actually pass and what it could mean for Foxconn and Wisconsin residents. Initially, Foxconn plans to employ 3,000 people, and says it may add up to 10,000 more jobs in the future.