Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Racine County residents feeling the Fox-con bulldozer

Whether it makes any sense or not, Foxconn's new facility in Southeast Wisconsin continues to plod ahead. And many of the residents around the planned campus are seeing the Foxconn steamroller come through no matter who lives there and who it hurts.

The people in Racine County sure are finding that out the hard way, and it was reiterated in a meeting with the public at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall yesterday. Since many individuals still want to stay in their houses despite being offered inflated (taxpayer-backed) prices to move out. So now the Village says they're literally going to call say those neighborhoods are blights to get them out of there.

Village officials argued while homes in the area aren't in poor shape, they have the ability to change the land's designation if properties are getting in the way of progress.

"Even though there may not be a single blighted property within the boundaries of the redevelopment area, the area may still meet the definition of a blighted area, which allows the acquisition of non-blighted properties," said Alan Marcuvitz, Mount Pleasant village attorney.

Village officials point to the following clause in which the state defines blighted property: "An area which is predominantly open and which because of obsolete platting, diversity of ownership, deterioration of structures or of site improvements, or otherwise, substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the community."

The village argues current homes in the area will stop their sound growth.

The village says using eminent domain is a last resort, and homeowners are being offered up to 140 percent of their home's assessed value and other benefits to move.
On another side of Racine County local government, there was concern that nearby residents would not be able to get good wages and work conditions if they worked for Foxconn. With that in mind, Racine County executive Jonathan Delagrave sent a memo to state legislators asking that a certain “labor reform” bill be stopped.
Local municipalities, under the proposed legislation, could not enact ordinances related to wages; employee hours and overtime, including scheduling of employee hours or shifts; employment benefits; or “an employer’s right to solicit information regarding the salary history of prospective employees.”

It could also affect local hiring provisions.

The Assembly bill included an exemption for the Foxconn Technology Group project and related projects “from unintended negative consequences of this bill.”

However, Delagrave wrote in his memo that he is concerned that: The bill does not exempt work on Interstate 94 or Highway KR and wastewater utility work; the Foxconn exemption might not hold up in court; and there could be other construction projects unrelated to Foxconn “where we want local hiring provisions and worker training incentives or requirements to help Racine County residents get hired. The amendment doesn’t protect any of these projects, so our local workforce efforts would be prohibited.”
So what did the ALEC-owned WisGOPs do last night in the Senate? They made the bill even worse for Delagrave!
The state Senate today approved legislation prohibiting municipalities from creating their own local labor laws after stripping out a change the Assembly made last month.

That means the bill would have to be approved by the Assembly, which plans to be in Thursday in extraordinary session, before it could head to the guv’s desk.

The Assembly provision that was stripped from the bill would have made clear the legislation did not apply to Foxconn.
“Small government conservatism” at its finest. Let’s see if the GOPs in the Assembly (of whom over 95% voted for the Fox-con) are cool with this amended bill tomorrow.

So in addition to removing environmental regulations and grabbing millions of gallons from Lake Michigan, now the locals in the Racine/Mt. Pleasant area can’t even demand that Foxconn pay a decent wage, hire locals, or have any standards above Fitzwalkerstan’s rapidly declining ones.

And just because Wisconsinites are heavily subsidizing the Foxconn facility, it doesn't mean that state and local companies will be the ones who do the work. That was seen again yesterday, as Foxconn announced the contractors for the building project.
Foxconn Technology Group (Foxconn) today announced that it has selected M+W Gilbane, CH2M, and The Sigma Group to serve as the lead contractors and designers for its state-of-the-art display manufacturing campus in Racine County. The three companies all have strong ties to Wisconsin and will begin to work within the next 60 days to hire construction workers to support phase one of the project, which will create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin and thousands more jobs through construction and the extensive supply chain supporting this project.

(Side note- I love how the GOP hacks try to keep telling the lie that Foxconn will create 13,000 jobs when the actual contract with the state says Foxconn only needs to add 10,400 jobs to keep all of the tax dollars Wisconsin would hand out, and it has 10 years to get there).

In looking at these companies, the “three companies all have strong ties to Wisconsin” claim is sketchy at best. It appears that only one does, as Sigma Group is a homegrown Milwaukee company, and they will deal with much of the environmental and engineering consulting.

But Gilbane is headquartered in Rhode Island and only has a small branch office in Milwaukee for a Wisconsin presence, and as for CH2M, they’re based out of suburban Denver, and were recently bought by the Jacobs Group, an international organization whose Wisconsin presence consists of two local branches in Appleton and Green Bay.

I suppose the local area will get an economic boost when these companies move workers to the Foxconn site in the near future. But many of the gains from these project will still be sent back to the home offices of these businesses, and unlike a road project, few Wisconsinites will actually be able to utilize what’s being built for Foxconn.

So it look like the only people winning with the Fox-con these days are the foreign corporation itself, a few contractors fortunate enough to land something associated with the Fox-con, and the politicians that may get headlines and campaign kickbacks from this taxpayer-funded business. Is that worth $4.5 billion+ over the next 25 years, and a whole lot of other needs going by the wayside in Wisconsin?

The more this thing develops, it looks like more people in SE Wisconsin will end up losing with the Fox-con, other than the handful of people who might get a job out of it (and with the unemployment rate being low, did they really need us to throw money at Foxconn to find a job?). The losers include the residents that are losing their land and homes, but also include those that are left will have to pay the higher local taxes to subsidize this local development.

And all of us will have to deal with the environmental and fiscal wreckage in the coming years from the Fox-con. And when WisGOP inevitably whines in future years “Who could have seen it coming?”, the answer will be obvious: “Anyone with a clue.”


  1. With the latest county/state population numbers released this morning showing WI population growth through July 1st was 1.85%(compared to MN's 5% increase and .3% losses in IL mounting) since 2010 is whether the states record low 2.9% February unemployment number will draw or repel workers(considering pay growth rates have been slower or level compared to other midwest states). Is the low unemployment rate due to job growth or due to working age population losses? I find it surprising that the population gains since 2010 are 1.85% with so many people entering from IL. Are existing WI residents leaving the state as residents from IL flood in? Once in the state, are they actually staying permanently or moving elsewhere after testing the waters? It's also interesting that both Cook county IL and Milwaukee county WI continue to lose residents in unison. I wonder if their losses are related or for completely different reasons? The star tribune states today the population increase in Minneapolis/St. Paul metro since 2010 has been an increase of 250,000 residents. While Madison/Dane County have been Wisconsin's healthiest population growth, they both seem to lag even St. Paul/Ramsey county in last years numbers, and most of counties surrounding Dane county population wise appear much weaker than most twin cities counties for the last years data. The real question is, once IL runs out of residents to send across the border, what will happen with the population stats then? Another question is, what types of people are crossing into WI? Last years raceway to fun resulted in a gang related triple homicide. While only 1 gang member lived in WI, it does make me wonder if lower wages could actually draw in less desirable residents?

    1. Hard to read with no paragraphs, but yes, Wisconsin loses people to numerous other places despite gaining people from Illinois.

      And one of the places that have lost a lot of people is Racine County, which has domestic migration of nearly -5,000 in the 2010s. Wonder how,many more leave there after they get driven off their land.