RACINE COUNTY — Wisconsin clearly wins with Wednesday’s White House announcement that Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn has chosen Wisconsin as the place it will build a huge plant that will employ thousands of people.
But two state legislators think this area, specifically, will win the grand prize of having the Foxconn plant.
“It’s probably the most exciting thing that will happen in Racine County this century,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who attended the announcement.
Although Vos said Foxconn likely won’t announce an exact location for a few weeks, he fully expects the multi-billion-dollar plant to be built in Racine County or very close to it in Kenosha County.
“All the indicators are that Racine County is at the top of the list” for a Foxconn site, Vos said.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard also said he thinks Foxconn will likely build in this area. “I’m hoping it’s Mount Pleasant-Sturtevant,” said Wanggaard, R-Racine. “I believe that’s what it’s going to be. … It’s either going to be Racine or Kenosha (county).”
The most likely area appears to be on Highway 11 near Interstate 94, according to media reports. Several property owners in that area have reportedly been approached about selling their land.
One resident near Highway 11 and Interstate 94 refused to comment Thursday about Foxconn, while two others said they were advised by their lawyers not to discuss it.
Vos said the purchase offers to property owners in that area have been “astronomical.” But even if some property owners choose not to sell their land to make way for Foxconn, Vos pointed out municipalities have the tool of eminent domain that could be used to buy them out.
Foxconn hopes to be operational in 2020, Vos said.
The company will initially employ about 3,000 people but could grow to about 13,000 employees.
Vos offered a comparison to bring home the employment number: SC Johnson employs roughly 2,000 people in the Racine area but, even at 4,000 or 5,000 jobs, Foxconn would at least double that.
During the White House announcement, Walker said the project will create about 10,000 construction jobs and another 22,000 indirect jobs will be created by Foxconn’s presence.
Vos said Foxconn coming to this area will be “transformational.” The way it operates in partnership with other companies, he said, will increase its economic impact. “It will be so much more significant than one company,” Vos said.
“It will be so huge, it will be way beyond Racine County” in its impact, he said.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave issued a written statement that said in part, “While we would welcome this type of investment in Racine County, it is our policy not to comment on speculation around potential development opportunities.
“We are also committed to transparency. If and when we have further information that we are able to share, we will engage in a full dialogue with the community.”
Sturtevant Village President Jayme Hoffman said he didn’t know where the company plans to build. Mount Pleasant Village President Dave DeGroot said, “It’s great news for Wisconsin, but I can’t say more than that.”
State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said, “This is the biggest economic news in my lifetime.”
“Overall,” he said, “we can’t help be really excited and enthusiastic about a project like this coming to our backyards.”
During the announcement, Walker said the Foxconn jobs will have an average salary of $53,875 plus benefits.
Most entry-level jobs will pay about $13 to $15 per hour and up, Vos said, “and I think the vast majority will be more than that.” For example, he said Foxconn will employ many engineers.
Wanggaard said Foxconn would create jobs of about $15 and up for entry level, with most of the jobs being mid-level of about $22 to $30 per hour.
“I think they will have to talk about it in the coming weeks,” Wanggaard said, “as legislators will need to know.” He was referring to the fact that Walker has been negotiating with Foxconn on an incentive package worth up to $3 billion over 15 years.
“We have to make sure we get this right,” Wanggaard said, with incentives tied to the things that Foxconn says it will do. A legislative team will put that bill together, he said.
Asked if he thought the economic incentives look appropriate, Vos noted that Wisconsin is not traditionally an incentive-heavy state. “With a jobs announcement this big,” he said, “we need to step up our game.”
Alyssa Mauk contributed to this report.