Global technology giant Foxconn toured sites across Ohio and Michigan before settling on southeastern Wisconsin for its first North American manufacturing facility, records Gov. Scott Walker's office released Thursday show.
The Taiwan-based company plans to invest up to $10 billion and hire 13,000 at the liquid crystal display screen plant and campus in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, in between Milwaukee and Chicago. The Wisconsin Legislature and Walker approved $3 billion in state incentives for the company, if it meets investment and hiring targets.
Walker's administration released more than 20,000 pages of emails and other documents related to the project, which the state won with help from President Donald Trump, to news outlets as requested under Wisconsin's open records law.
One email from Wisconsin's chief economic development officer sent in May is a briefing document for an upcoming meeting with Foxconn while the potential project was still secret.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation chief executive officer Mark Hogan said in the message that Foxconn toured locations in Ohio near Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. In Michigan, Hogan said they looked at Detroit, Flint and Battle Creek. Foxconn was also considering locating in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Hogan said.
Hogan said in the email that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was involved with the tours and meeting.
"The Foxconn team was generally impressed with what Detroit had to offer (some good locations and the availability of engineers) and appreciated Governor Snyder's involvement," Hogan wrote.
He stressed that the availability of a skilled workforce was key to Foxconn's decision.
“I would recommend Governor Walker focus on what we are doing in Wisconsin to address the current, and future, workforce needs of our employers," Hogan wrote.
Walker has made workforce development one of his signature issues since Foxconn announced plans to come to the state. Wisconsin has record-low 3 percent unemployment and Walker has proposed spending nearly $7 million on a marketing campaign to lure young workers from the Midwest to the state. He's also proposed tougher work requirements on food stamp recipients to get them into the workforce.
Another document shows that more that at least a dozen potential sites across Wisconsin were considered before Foxconn settled on one in Racine County, not far from the Illinois border.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reporting on the same records, said Hogan told colleagues in a July email that Wisconsin didn't want to add to its subsidy package by offering the same deal to suppliers.
That could be important as other states look to attract those suppliers by offering their own incentives, the newspaper reported. Walker and Wisconsin officials have been touting the economic development, and jobs, expected to come to the state with suppliers here, an impact that would be lessened if other states lure them away.