OpEd: Dear Foxconn, here’s the key to a healthy relationship with Racine County

Foxconn
Guests photograph a model of the projected completed Foxconn campus at Foxconn's Opus facility, 13315 Globe Drive, Mount Pleasant, Thursday June 28, 2018 before President Donald J. Trump's speech. The event followed a ceremonial groundbreaking event at one of Foxconn's nearby construction sites. (c) Mark Hertzberg for www.racinecountyeye.com

Dear Foxconn,

Welcome to Wisconsin. You will find that the Village of Mount Pleasant and the City of Racine are beautiful places to work and play. But please know that we are fiercely protective of our land, our water, our health, our work, and our pocketbooks. We also take our politics seriously because we understand the fickleness of government. There is a reason why we are often called a swing state.

After all our state is the birthplace of the Republican Party and the Progressive Party. We are largely the children of immigrants who struggled all of their lives. We work hard and play hard. We are also quick to point out wrong-doing and will also give you a hero’s celebration for the wins. This is the family you are marrying into. It can be a little unsettling at first. Hang in there, we have reasons for our passion.

That passion is what has made Wisconsin the manufacturing powerhouse it is. We are dreamers. We are tinkerers. We fail fast. And then we fix things. And once you get to know us, you will realize that we only want what is good and right for our businesses, our community, and our families.

Over the next few years, you will tear down 100-year-old farmhouses, erect concrete buildings where strong tall stalks of corn and soybeans once swayed gently in the wind, and begin the work of making the finest electronics products. What you make is exciting, transformative, and actually, we’re pretty geeked out over it.

But we also have a healthy dose of skepticism as well.

You see, our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, great grandfathers and great grandmothers saw their homes disappear in Racine over the years in the name of progress. They also saw those promised jobs go to Mexico and China. And those manufacturers that stayed ended up hiring undocumented and temporary workers to compete in a global economy. Since the 1980s, wages for manufacturing jobs have been stagnant. And after those companies left Racine, we were also left with a costly contaminated mess to clean up. And we are still cleaning that up.

This is one of the major reasons why Racine has not been able to bounce back over the years. And we cannot allow that to happen to Mount Pleasant. So it is good that you are going to a zero-discharge manufacturing facility. It is good that you are going to draw less water from Lake Michigan. And it is good that you are investing heavily in education. We applaud you for that effort.

But that progress also comes with a price tag, in the form of incentives and tax breaks, that many are tired of paying. All too often our state and municipal governments leverage the cost of progress onto the middle class, which has significantly deteriorated over the years. And many find that no longer acceptable. This is what you are up against.

Please know that Mount Pleasant may be the oasis of green fields now, but it is surrounded by brownfields contaminated by manufacturers — from Chicago to Milwaukee — that also promised jobs. We have many businesses that realized too late that operating sustainably and in an environmentally sensitive way was in the best interest of their bottom line and their community. But they now serve as examples of environmental stewardship. Please learn from them.

Make no mistake though. We want you to succeed here. Prove us wrong. And what right looks like is that you are a good steward of the land. That you continue to advocate for education. And above all, that you treat your employees with respect.

If we can mitigate those issues, we will enjoy a long and healthy relationship that will benefit all of us.

Read more about the Foxconn Technology Group.

 

About Denise Lockwood 878 Articles
Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.