“Great day for Wisconsin:” Landing massive Foxconn plant a huge victory for Governor Walker
MADISON — Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker just got what may be the biggest political boost of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a much better time.
President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday, July 26th that Wisconsin had won the high-stakes fight to be home to Foxconn’s first U.S. manufacturing plant — a $10 billion investment that could mean 3,000 jobs or more for the state — comes as Walker is preparing to run for a third term.
It not only gives Walker’s job-creation credentials a jolt but also allows him to further distance himself from his biggest failure — not fulfilling his 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs in four years.
“Walk-off grand slam home run,” said Brandon Scholz, a longtime Republican operative in Wisconsin and former state party director. He called the Foxconn news the pinnacle of Walker’s time as governor and a fulfillment of what he’s been promising to do.
“It’s going to be tough for any of his prospective opponents to criticize him for not doing the things he’s supposed to do as governor, for not improving the Wisconsin economy,” Scholz said. “The one word response will be: Foxconn.”
Walker stormed into office in 2010 declaring that Wisconsin was “Open for Business,” but after more than six years he has yet to fulfill his original job-creation promise.
Walker has been struggling to rebuild good will in Wisconsin after his failed presidential run. His approval ratings hit its lowest point at 37 percent just as he ended his presidential campaign in September 2015. It has slowly grown back to 48 percent, the same as it was at this point in 2013 before he ran for a second term in 2014.
Walker’s economic record has long been a sore spot, and even then-candidate Trump blasted Walker about it when they were both running for president in 2016.
“He’s not doing a great job,” Trump said of Walker in 2016. “But your governor has convinced you (Wisconsin) doesn’t have problems.”
Those criticisms were long forgotten as President Trump and Walker stood triumphantly together in the White House on Wednesday for the Foxconn announcement.
Walker was able to land the deal thanks in large part to Wisconsin’s deep connections with the White House. House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose congressional district will be home to the plant, worked closely with President Trump and Walker on the deal. So too did White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, a Kenosha native who said he talked up the potential of southeast Wisconsin to President Trump for the plant.
Foxconn’s promise to hire 3,000 people — and maybe as many as 13,000 eventually — will give Walker something to run on that Democrats will have a hard time deflecting.
“In politics there are ups and downs,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, who represents a part of the state near where the plant would locate.
“Obviously this would be a plus for him and the entire state, potentially,” Barca said. “But one deal does not make an administration. I don’t think he could point to one deal and say this is what he has accomplished in seven or eight years of governing.”
Even longtime Democratic critics had a hard time saying anything bad about the deal.
“10,000 good-paying, family sustaining jobs for Wisconsin is a great thing for our state — period,” said Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, who is challenging Walker next year. “This should not be a partisan issue.”
But Gronik and other Democrats called for transparency in the deal cut by the state.
Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson said Walker has “left a trail of broken promises” and that voters shouldn’t be convinced the jobs will come.
Scholz, the Republican strategist, said Walker critics will have a hard time making their case when it comes to Foxconn.
“For those that want to naysay this project, let them go ahead,” Scholz said, “because they’re on the outside looking in.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued this statement:
“I’m certainly excited about the jobs coming to Southeastern Wisconsin and I’m eager to get the ball rolling on connecting Milwaukeeans to those jobs. I also believe it’s important for policy makers to ensure that the financing package is fair to taxpayers.”
Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D – Kenosha) issued this statement:
“This has the potential to make an enormous impact economically on the region. That’s why the governor and the legislature must protect taxpayers and provide opportunities for long-term, family-supporting jobs for our residents. I look forward to continuing to work with local and state leaders to ensure the economic success of Southern Wisconsin and the entire state.”
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele release this statement:
“Today’s announcement that a major global employer, and one of the largest manufacturers in the world, will be setting up massive operations in southeastern Wisconsin is a great example of what can happen when we all work together. It’s also a testament to the strength and appeal of our workforce and the commitment from many levels of government to devote the resources needed to invest in the kind of infrastructure that will attract and retain global talent.
“The Milwaukee area has been experiencing an unprecedented economic development boom, spurred largely by projects in the Park East, at the Couture, and on the County Grounds. This deal takes that development to another level and I believe represents the greatest opportunity in a generation to empower our job market, sustainably raise wages for our workforce, begin to address the racial disparities that exist in economic opportunity, housing, transportation, and employment, and show the rest of the world how effective and innovative our Wisconsin workforce can be.
“I’m excited to make sure our neighbors to the south in Racine and Kenosha counties will join Milwaukee County in driving the state’s economy forward and upward. A regional, and comprehensive, approach to workforce development is exactly what it will take to ensure that Foxconn has the skilled workforce and transportation infrastructure they need to thrive in Wisconsin for years to come.
“I congratulate the many partners representing diverse business, education, and labor interests who worked so hard to make this development a reality of which everyone can be proud.”
Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin had this to say about the Foxconn announcement:
“This is a momentous occasion for Wisconsin and our next generation,” said Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin. “The Bucks applaud Chairman Gou for seeing the benefits of the Badger State and in creating jobs for years to come. We welcome Foxconn to the Wisconsin business community and share its strong commitment to the future of our state.”