Trump to accept Republican nomination near failed Foxconn site

(NewsNation) — Every day, Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, resident Kelly Gallagher drives past the nearly abandoned site where Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn promised to bring billions of dollars to a small Wisconsin town seven years ago.

That plan never came to pass, and years later, Gallagher says residents of Mt. Pleasant still haven’t forgotten the “empty promises” made by leaders. 

Former President Donald Trump helped broker the Foxconn deal, touting it as the future “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Next week, he’s slated to accept his party’s presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, about 30 miles north of the site. 

But it’s unlikely he’ll bring up their village, Gallagher said. 

“He does not talk about Foxconn. That is the ‘F’ word he will not say, so I expect him not to mention it at all because there’s no good story to it. There’s nothing salvageable about this stunt he put upon us,” she said.

Gallagher, the spokesperson for the organization A Better Mt. Pleasant, was one of the 27,000 residents who pushed against the Foxconn factory in 2017.  

Foxconn was expected to kick off ‘Wisconn Valley’ development

Under that deal, helmed by former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, the state agreed to provide Foxconn with nearly $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for its promised $10 billion factory investment, which was supposed to usher in 13,000 jobs. 

“Foxconn will have a transformational effect for generations to come in much the same way Silicon Valley transformed the San Francisco Bay Area and the Research Triangle transformed North Carolina. We’re calling it ‘Wisconn Valley,'” Walker said in 2017, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.  

Walker did not return requests for comment by NewsNation.

The eyepopping numbers received bipartisan support, including from Democratic Racine Mayor Corey Mason, who voted in favor of the project as a state representative in 2017.

“We were all excited about the 13,000 jobs promised to area residents. About 90% of those jobs haven’t appeared. For Racine, the missing jobs have become an economic nightmare,” he said in a statement to NewsNation.

How Foxconn acquired the land

Foxconn needed 1,200 acres of land in an area occupied by legacy farms and small neighborhoods of houses.

Local officials spent the next year paying out around $400 million to acquire private property under eminent domain on behalf of the company.

“The village put the eminent domain gun to these people’s heads, and that’s how they got voluntary agreements for their property,” resident Kimberly Mahoney, who refused to sell her family farm for the project, said at a 2022 city meeting.

One hundred homes were demolished, and residents who sold their property had to sign nondisclosure agreements that barred them from speaking about anything regarding the sale, Gallagher said. 

“That just leads to the cynicism of back door officials making deals in which the people have no input and no say,” she said.

In 2018, Trump flew to Mt. Pleasant for the company’s groundbreaking and boasted that the deal was a product of his “America First” agenda. 

“This is just the beginning. This is one of the largest plants in the world. And when you think in terms of 20 million feet — if you build in Manhattan a million-foot building, that’s a very big building. They don’t get much bigger,” he said at the groundbreaking.

But the grand plan he touted quickly fizzled as promises whittled down year after year. 

NewsNation reached out to the Trump campaign for comment and did not hear back.

Foxconn project scaled back multiple times

While Foxconn initially built multiple structures and hired several hundred workers, the project was largely dead on arrival. 

Shortly after the groundbreaking, the company said it was changing its plan to build a smaller facility, but by early 2019, it stated that it was no longer building a factory, reported The Verge.

Instead, the company said the site would be a research and development center, but that never happened. Most of the people who were initially hired were laid off. 

A year after approving the project, Walker lost his reelection bid to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers, who ran in part by promising to bring accountability to the Foxconn project. 

Evers rolled back the tax breaks to $80 million contingent on the number of jobs created and investments by 2022. The company announced that it will reduce its planned investment to $672 million and cut the number of new jobs down to 1,454.

“I’ve said all along that my goal as governor would be to find an agreement that works for Wisconsin taxpayers while providing the support Foxconn needs to be successful here in our state,” Evers said in 2021.

Foxconn representatives did not return NewsNation’s requests for comment.

In 2020, Foxconn was granted a permit to change the land’s use from manufacturing to storage, The Verge reported. 

Some residents called the move a bait-and-switch. 

“They [local leaders] were applauding themselves for all this land that they acquired, obviously wasn’t needed. All this infrastructure they put in place that obviously wasn’t needed, but they haven’t told us anything,” Mahoney told county officials in 2022. 

Mt. Pleasant Village President David DeGroot told the Washington Post last year that Foxconn had invested more than $750 million into the area, creating “significant benefits” for the village, and added it’s the largest taxpayer in the county.

He also told the Post the development has drawn interest from “some of the largest businesses in America” including a $1 billion data center campus for Microsoft.

DeGroot did not respond to NewsNation’s requests for comment.

Microsoft plans to build the campus on a 315-acre parcel of the Foxconn site. It’s expected to create 2,300 union construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, according to the White House

Could Racine County play a role in the 2024 election?

Gallagher believes the Foxconn project “played a part in the last few elections that swung towards Democrats – starting with Tony Evers replacing Walker.”

While Trump won in Racine County in 2020, his victory was narrow, with a difference of less than 4,400 votes. Overall, he lost the state of Wisconsin to President Joe Biden by about 20,000 votes.

Racine County is a critical location. All but five of the past 33 winning presidential candidates carried it. Trump is one of the five.

Foxconn’s footprints continue to be a sore reminder of the “lies,” Gallagher said.  

“If we didn’t look at it every day. It could almost be comical, but the truth is, it’s not. It’s just shameful,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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