Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Foxconn keeps racking up the taxpayer-funded help

Another week, and more evidence that the Fox-con is going to be much more costly than its proponents ever sold it to be. This has evidenced in 3 different ways in recent days.

The first came from this startling story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, where a state study shows that the Foxconn campus and manufacturing plant would lead to notable increases in air pollution in an area that already has emissions restrictions.
Emissions from the company’s operations in Mount Pleasant would rank among the highest in southeastern Wisconsin for pollutants that create smog, also known as ozone pollution, state documents show.

Smog poses a health threat, especially for the elderly, children and people who suffer from respiratory problems like asthma. But it can also lead to reduced lung function for people working and exercising outdoors, and environmental groups are concerned about Foxconn's impact on air quality….

The emissions are produced during the manufacturing of super-high-resolution panels for medical imaging, consumer electronics and other uses. The $10 billion plant — a project on no one’s radar here until a year ago — could employ up to 13,000 people and represents the most significant economic development in Wisconsin in decades.

Together, VOCs and NOx emissions would have ranked fourth-highest in southeastern Wisconsin if the company had been operating in 2016, according to DNR figures.

The only higher sources would have been a trio of coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek, Pleasant Prairie and Sheboygan.

Well that’ll drive up the home values in Racine County, won’t it? Add that lost value of property along with the social costs of pollution and inevitable mitigation to the “Foxconn pile” of taxpayer subsidies, because you know Foxconn isn’t going to be paying for any of that damage.

The second case of taxpayers shelling out more for the Fox-con came from what seems to be a positive headline – “Gateway Technical College developing new degree programs for Foxconn jobs”.
Gateway Technical College in Kenosha is finalizing two new degree programs to train workers for the massive Foxconn electronics manufacturing complex planned for nearby Mount Pleasant.

The associate's degree programs — eventually there could be four new, two-year degrees — would also be feeders for other area manufacturing companies investing in the so-called industrial internet of things, once described by The New York Times as "bringing the digital magic of the internet economy to the machines that run the world" to make manufacturing "smarter" and more efficient….

Foxconn says it will provide internships, in addition to job placement.

Foxconn's offer does not promise jobs to Gateway graduates but says graduates of Gateway or similar programs at Gateway's partner technical colleges "will be considered as candidates for hire."

Foxconn anticipates needing advanced manufacturing technicians with knowledge and skills in automation of manufacturing systems/mechatronics, robotics, industrial control systems and the internet of things, for example.
So state taxpayers and students will pay for the equipment and instruction costs for Gateway to get this new program up and running. Since Foxconn is getting bags of cash from WEDC instead of paying corporate taxes, they’re getting basically getting another tax-funded subsidy in the form of new workers that they can choose from their labor pool, without having to do much other than be in the area (OK, they say they’ll give some training to a few unpaid interns, so….YAY?).

The last added subsidy for Foxconn came as part of a committee discussion today at Milwaukee’s City Hall to discuss transit options on how to get city residents to the Foxconn plant. It included Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman promoting a plan for commuter rail, as well as the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) discussing a county plan to have regional bus service bring workers down to Racine County.

Bauman’s latest idea, which would take riders from a station at N. 35th St. and W. Capitol Dr. to Highway 11 in southern Racine County in approximately 45 minutes, competes with two other public transportation proposals that could deliver Milwaukee residents to Foxconn’s front door. The first, introduced recently by Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr. would have the Milwaukee County Transit System operate a bus line to factory campus from downtown Milwaukee. The other, introduced in February by Bauman, would leverage the expansion of the Amtrak Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee to provide fast service between the city and rural factory campus. All of the options would require additional public financing, something Bauman says should be a non-issue given the state’s willingness to commit over $4 billion to Foxconn.

The commuter rail option would rely on a public entity acquiring and improving the 30th Street Corridor rail line, which runs from the Miller Valley near Highway 175 to W. Hampton Ave. and N. 34th St. The line, which is entirely grade-separated from city streets, is currently owned by the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. Trains would originate from Century City, running south into the Menomonee Valley, stopping at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station at the edge of downtown, and continuing south to the Foxconn campus…

[SEWRPC Deputy Director Kevin] Muhs presented SEWRPC’s recent study of a bus route between downtown Milwaukee and Foxconn. The limited-stop service, prepared at [Milwaukee Coutny Board Chair Theo] Lipscomb’s request, would have a bus stopping along Wisconsin Ave., then at the College Ave. and Holt Ave. park-and-ride facilities before ending at Foxconn. A second line could connect to downtown Racine from Foxconn. “This isn’t by any means an all-day service,” said Muhs. Travel times from downtown to Foxconn would be 45-to-50 minutes according to Muhs, with the schedule designed to sync with Foxconn’s anticipated 12-hour shifts.

SEWRPC has found that the county contracting out the operations of the route could provide more capacity and a higher-quality ride. A coach bus operator would use 55-set coach buses versus the 36-seat county transit buses. Costs would be 10 to 40 percent higher, but if the system is well utilized, the net cost per passenger would likely be lower. If the county operates the service themselves they would need to purchase additional buses at approximately $500,000 each.

Under either scenario a one-way trip is expected to cost $4 if paid for with cash, but much lower on average (MCTS would get an average of $1.80 per trip) because SEWRPC projects there will be substantial use of weekly or monthly passes that offer bulk discounts, and a number of riders paying only a transfer from another MCTS trip. Four daily round trips, a capacity of 220 employees, would require an annual operating subsidy of $150,000 to $530,000, depending on ridership. Increasing the service to 12 daily round trips would increase the subsidy to an estimated maximum of $1.59 million annual expense.
There is also the possibility of a Foxconn-related upgrade of the current Amtrak line between Milwaukee and Chicago, to the tune of $195 million. Note that Foxconn is not mentioned to be contributing a DIME toward these projects, but they’d sure reap the benefits of them.

Which leads to an obvious question – why do numerous levels of Wisconsin government continue to bend over backward to shovel billions of tax dollars to help this one company, when we could pay to meet many other needs in the state that would benefit far more people for a much lower cost? The insanity of the Fox-con continues to grow with each story you read.

I keep going back to this book that I read a few years back, and occasionally go back to it. Especialy as the Fox-con looks like it'll end up being one of the worst examples of this in America's history.


  1. I do have to say though that if FoxCon -- at least the excitement (in all directions) associated with it -- causes progress in other transportation alternatives that'll be a good thing, even if it was the dumbest way to get there...

    1. Unfortunately there will be no money for this unless Walker borrows another 200 mil. but I doubt Walker will stop his hate on Milwaukee. Sad that the CONS were so short sighted.

    2. It is hilarious that the Fox-conn would be the one reason transit might get more funding, since the state is giving less money to transit now than it was 8 years ago.

      As Golden Eagles notes, there's absolutely no money for the state to fund any transportation options with Foxconn beyond road building (and that'll be by borrowing). So the locals would have to shell out for most of those options, and good luck getting constituents to avoid filling potholes or hiring cops to go along with something to benefit a corporation 30 miles away.