Visions of Foxconn plant clash at groundbreaking
MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (AP) — Visions about what the Foxconn Technology Group project will mean for the future of Wisconsin and region clashed Thursday, with President Donald Trump and Gov. Scott Walker touting it as a transformational moment while opponents worried about pollution, congestion and false promises.
As Trump and Walker grabbed a pair of golden shovels to ceremoniously mark the beginning of work on the plant, dozens of state and local elected officials and other dignitaries applauded.
“This will make us a brain gain state, not a brain drain state,” the Republican governor said, predicting that it will transform Wisconsin as Microsoft did Washington state.
But a couple miles down the road the scene was starkly different. About 300 protesters, Democratic officeholders and candidates hoping to take on Walker in the fall gathered in a park to voice their frustrations with the project and their fear for the future.
Patrick Schelble, a 68-year-old retired nurse from Milwaukee, came to the rally carrying a sign that read “People and planet over corporate profits.” He said he didn’t believe the plant would produce the 13,000 promised jobs, calling it a “fantasy.” But he said there was “no going back for Republicans who supported this.”
Joe Dubaniewicz, 65, wore a “Make America Green Again” T-shirt. As a member of the Sierra Club, he said the environmental impacts of the plant were “not good.”
“The emissions into the air are not going to be clean and they don’t have a way to mitigate that,” he said.
Objections to Foxconn aren’t really about the project itself, “but the politics around it,” said GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, whose southeast Wisconsin district includes the future plant. He said protesters were trying to score political points against Trump, Walker and other Republicans who secured the deal.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, a Republican who faces tough re-election this year in his district north of the Foxconn campus, said not enough attention was being paid to the jobs that will be created, noting that Foxconn plans to employ 500 people at its headquarters in Milwaukee.
“There are people who are against any development whatsoever,” Grothman said. “In general, people like the idea of more jobs.”
Foxconn’s campus will be in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district. He joined with Trump, Walker, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and the first Wisconsin Foxconn employee, Christopher Murdock, at the groundbreaking.
Democratic state Rep. Dana Wachs, who dropped out of the race for governor last week, questioned whether Foxconn’s changes to its initial plans for the size of the plant amounted to a contract violation.
“Governor Walker gave Foxconn a blank check with taxpayer money. Now is the time for accountability,” Wachs said in a conference call.
Vos discounted concerns about changes in Foxconn’s plans.
“Only in government do they say that everything has to be the way it was planned a year or two ago,” Vos said. He noted that if the project size and number of people employed is smaller than originally planned, the state subsidies awarded to Foxconn will be reduced accordingly.
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