“Can’t talk about it:” Closed-door meeting in Racine Co. adds to speculation Foxconn wants to build there

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MOUNT PLEASANT -- A closed-door meeting on Monday, July 10th fueled speculation that the electronics company Foxconn wants to build a huge factory here, potentially bringing thousands of jobs to Racine County.

In an unusual move, the Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant village boards met together Monday night and, as has become common in Racine County lately, most of their meeting was off-limits to the public. The boards justified spending more than an hour behind closed doors with a vague reason: "discussing a potential future development project in Racine County."

"We had an interesting conversation about potential future cooperation between the villages regarding future development," Mount Pleasant Village President Dave DeGroot said when board members finally returned.

It's the third time in the past month that a governmental body in Racine County has gone into closed session to discuss economic development. The meetings coincide with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos saying that Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn is interested in building a factory in Wisconsin, the latter saying that Foxconn's development could bring 10,000 jobs.

The Racine County Board twice met privately in June, with an equally vague reason: "to deliberate the investment of public funds regarding competitive multi-site economic development opportunities."

A week after the second meeting, the board voted 16-0 without debate to transfer $500,000 in taxpayer money to the Racine County Economic Development Corporation "to cover expenses related to economic development projects."

In a memo last week decrying the deteriorating condition of southeastern Wisconsin's interstate highways, Vos confirmed that Foxconn was interested in the area.

"Technology company Foxconn has indicated its desire to locate in southeast Wisconsin with up to 10,000 jobs, and yet the enumeration of Interstate 94 North-South through Racine and Kenosha counties continues to be delayed," Vos and two other Assembly Republican leaders wrote.

On Friday, Ryan said he was involved in the discussions.

"I've met with Foxconn at Scott Walker's request. There is a great potential there for a lot of good jobs to come to Wisconsin," Ryan told reporters in Madison. "(Gov. Scott Walker's) administration has been working very closely with us, the federal delegation, and with Foxconn to try to find them a good fit."

House Speaker Paul Ryan

On Monday, when village officials in Mount Pleasant emerged after more than an hour behind closed doors, they wouldn't talk about what they had discussed.

Dave DeGroot

"I can't speak on behalf of what Speaker Ryan says or what Speaker Vos says. All I can do is control what's happening in the Village of Mount Pleasant, and we can't talk about it," DeGroot told FOX6 News.

Sturtevant's Board President, Jayme Hoffman, appeared to be in a hurry.

When FOX6 asked if he would address the speculation that the meeting was about Foxconn, Hoffman said, "Sorry." A woman who did not identify herself added, "We're late," and the two hurried out the door.

Jayme Hoffman

Adding to the intrigue, multiple published reports indicate a private airplane registered in Taiwan and said to be the plane of Foxconn's chairman landed at General Mitchell International Airport Monday afternoon.

The plane was gone by 7 p.m. Monday when FOX6 News drove by.

Michigan is also trying to woo Foxconn, which has said it may hire 50,000 workers in the U.S. to build electronics. The company makes components for flat-panel TVs and screens for Apple's iPhone.