Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Mount Pleasant officials hope to attract another company to the Foxconn site that they've spent millions to prepare

From JSOnline:

Corrinne Hess
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

STURTEVANT - Using public money, Mount Pleasant improved its infrastructure anticipating a massive Foxconn factory and $1.4 billion worth of investment.

With that not happening, village officials believe they can attract another national or international company to the massive and largely vacant site. 

"We've put in a lot of infrastructure folks," said Claude Lois, Foxconn's project manager hired by Mount Pleasant. "We've sized this at the time for Foxconn Generation 10, but today, actually because of all the work we did we are sitting pretty good for all the work we did for the future." 

Lois spoke during a special meeting of the Racine County Board and the Mount Pleasant Village Board Tuesday — the first time a public update on Foxconn has been given since 2019. Foxconn representatives were invited to participate but declined. 

Residents were not allowed to speak during the meeting but were given a chance to submit questions in advance. Those questions were not answered during the meeting. 

Foxconn land acquired, prepared but what will be built?

After spending eight months wooing semiconductor chip manufacturing giant Intel Corp., Racine County officials learned in December the company chose Ohio instead of the Foxconn site. 

Jim Paetsch, executive director of the Milwaukee 7, helped to negotiate the Racine County Intel pitch. He said Foxconn was cooperative throughout the process.

Paetsch said what Intel liked about Mount Pleasant will be attractive to other companies including farming and battery manufacturers. 

"The really good news is Mount Pleasant and Racine County have a really good site," Paetsch said. "We're looking forward to pursuing more opportunities in months to come. What people don't understand sometimes about economic development is, if you don't have a site, you don't have a deal." 

But some residents say hypothetical deals aren't good enough. 

Kim Mahoney is one of the few remaining homeowners still living on the Foxconn site. Mount Pleasant closed negotiations on buying her property in 2019. 

"People gave up their homes for a $10 billion investment and 13,000 jobs, not for speculation as to what might get built there," said Mahoney, who attended the meeting.

Mount Pleasant and Racine County created a $911 million special taxing district in 2017 to support the Foxconn project.

That money was used to pay for land acquisition, massive infrastructure upgrades and other expenses in Mount Pleasant, according to the agreement. More than 100 homes and properties were purchased — sometimes through the eminent domain process — so Foxconn could assemble its site. 

According to the agreement, the money will be recouped over 30 years with funding and property tax revenue from Foxconn and other businesses in the district.

Local officials have repeatedly said they are protected because Foxconn must make minimum tax payments equal to about $30 million beginning in 2023, regardless of the project’s completion status.

They reiterated this message on Tuesday saying Foxconn has met all of its financial obligations including tax payments and special assessment payments totaling $22 million. 

In December 2021, Foxconn qualified for nearly $30 million in Wisconsin tax credits for creating 579 eligible jobs and investing $266 million in the facility. 

It's still unclear what Foxconn is doing

After much hype surrounding Foxconn's arrival in Wisconsin in 2017, it has been unclear for years what the company's plans are for Wisconsin.

In April 2021, the state revised its $2.85 billion contract with Foxconn to create more realistic goals including the creation of 1,454 jobs — 11% of the original plan — by 2024.

Foxconn has said it has invested approximately $900 million in Wisconsin, which includes a nearly 1-million-square-foot "advanced manufacturing" facility in the Village of Mount Pleasant, a 300,000-square-foot "smart manufacturing center," a 120,000-square-foot "multipurpose building" and a 100-foot tall "high performance computing data center globe."

But it has been unclear what type of day-to-day work is actually being done in those buildings. 


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