While Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker continues to hail the deal he struck last year with the Taiwanese electronics firm Foxconn to build a factory in the state—with the vocal support of President Donald Trump—reports out of southeastern Wisconsin show that the agreement, ostensibly meant to boost the economy and employment, is so far holding few benefits for Wisconsinites.
According to a recent report in Belt Magazine, efforts to push residents of Racine County, where the factory is slated to open in 2019, are well underway eight months after Walker finalized the deal amid much fanfare—and with little to no input from locals.
With the local officials trying to seize over 3,000 acres of agriculture and residential properties with eminent domain orders and by designating the area "blighted," some homeowners are mounting a legal challenge against the effort.
Following a recent community meeting, Belt Magazine reporter Lawrence Tabak told the public radio station WUWM, "It was a sad litany of homeowners stepping before the committee and demonstrating, without much equivocation, that their properties certainly didn't look blighted...It was quite an emotional and sad event."
"I've lived in my home for 28 years," one resident, Joe Jacanek, said to a community board. "I'm a tax-paying citizen and I deserve better than this, to just be kicked to the curb and thrown out of my residence."
The homeowners' plight has caught the attention of the pro bono law firm the Institute for Justice.
A lawyer from the firm, Anthony Sanders, attended the meeting and called the efforts to obtain homeowners' land "a textbook case of eminent domain abuse."
"Make no mistake. If there is a legal challenge, you will lose. You will not be able to take these people's homes," Sanders told the board.
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The Foxconn deal is also so far not proving to be the job creator Wisconsinites were promised. The tech company has stated that about three-quarters of its employees would be paid on an hourly basis—contradicting Walker's pledge to provide "13,000 new family supporting" jobs.
Assembly workers who have been hired so far at an existing production facility are being paid about $14 per hour, according to Tabak, and obtained employment through staffing agencies:
While this initial assembly plant can't be projected across the entire future Foxconn complex, we know that $14/hour is a far cry from the promised average annual salary of $54,000, far enough that instead of family-supporting, it would likely qualify families for food stamps, housing assistance and state-supported health care.
As recently as Monday, the governor was touting the economic benefits that would come out of Foxconn's arrival in Wisconsin with slick and highly-editing videos like the one below. Meanwhile, local residents are facing a far less sunny reality.
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) April 24, 2018
The contractors Foxconn has hired to manage its construction have said 60 percent of the project will be completed by Wisconsin-based companies. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn has raised concerns that millions of "taxpayer dollars will go to out-of-state businesses when they should go to Wisconsin ones."
"Scott Walker and his administration deliberately misled Wisconsin taxpayers about the Foxconn deal," said Flynn in a recent press release. “Firms from Rhode Island, Colorado, Texas, and Germany will lead construction...The governor intentionally misrepresented the benefits of the deal. It is impossible that Foxconn could have the economic impact in our state that Walker promised us."