WEDC board member describes ‘nuclear bomb’ that delayed Foxconn contract

State Sen. Tim Carpenter, a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board member, is breaking the silence surrounding why the agency delayed a vote on the $3 billion incentives contract with Foxconn last week.

Carpenter said, under the terms of the contract that board members had expected to vote on, WEDC would have had no ability to get claw back its money if Foxconn leaves the state or goes bankrupt. WEDC staff decided to delay the vote at the last minute until at least Nov. 8.

“It’s an escape clause for Foxconn,” said Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, in a telephone interview. “Some people call it a technical issue. I call it a nuclear bomb.”

Carpenter, fellow board members and WEDC chief executive Mark Hogan declined to discuss the nature of the problem last week, citing the ongoing negotiations and the fact that board members discussed the issue in closed session.

Carpenter said he is now able to speak out about the problem because the attorney hired by the Village of Mount Pleasant to handle the Foxconn deal talked about it with the village board this week.

Board members wouldn’t have seen the final contract before voting on the deal, only a staff review that outlines the terms of the contract. Carpenter said he will demand to see the contract before a the possible vote on Nov. 8.

“I think WEDC is trying to hide things,” he said. “My concern is we’re just rubber stamping whatever the staff interpretation is.”

Foxconn would get $3 billion in incentives from the state – all but $150 million in the form of cash payments – if it builds a massive TV screen plant and hires $13,000 workers.