MADISON, WI — Wisconsin is working on a package of incentives to lure Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn to the state as part of a deal that two state lawmakers said Thursday they believe could come as soon as the end of the month.
Wisconsin is one of several Midwest states vying for Foxconn as it considers building a $7 billion display panel manufacturing plant that could employ up to 10,000 people. The company was expected to announce its decision by early August. Michigan passed new economic incentives to sweeten its deal for Foxconn last week.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told The Associated Press on Thursday that "huge, big numbers" are being talked about to help land Foxconn, but he had no direct knowledge of what may be offered.
"I know they're working on a (deal) but we don't have anything yet," he said. Earlier Thursday Fitzgerald told WKOW-TV that Gov. Scott Walker's office and state economic development officials have been "kept very close to the vest until they have something."
Rep. John Nygren and Sen. Luther Olsen both said the state could announce a deal by the end of the month, but neither of them knew what incentives may be offered either
Walker declined to discuss details of the ongoing negotiations.
"We don't have a specific proposal on the table," Walker told reporters. "Anything that's being talked about right now is purely speculative."
Walker and state economic development officials have repeatedly declined to comment about Foxconn, saying they can't discuss ongoing negotiations with potential new businesses.
Nygren, who is co-chairman of the Legislature's budget committee, said incentives for Foxconn would not be included in the two-year budget currently being worked on that's already three weeks past due. But he said money being considered for tax cuts now, like $200 million Walker wanted to use to cut income taxes, may instead be needed for incentives later as part of any deal with Foxconn.
Nygren was optimistic that Wisconsin would win the high-stakes race to land Foxconn, but he stressed that talks were fluid and the company could just as easily choose another state. He and other lawmakers attended a barbecue at the governor's mansion with Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou last week.
"It was very clear a deal could come as quickly as the end of the month," Nygren said.
Olsen, who agreed with that timeline, said he wanted to hold off on passing Wisconsin's overdue state budget "until we know what's going on with this."
Adding in Foxconn incentives is a new twist.
"This is something we have to take seriously if they decide to come to Wisconsin," Olsen said of incentives for Foxconn. "We have to make sure we're in fiscal shape to fulfill the obligations that are being presented to Foxconn to come to Wisconsin."
House Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this month that he had met with Foxconn officials at the request of Walker and he hoped they would locate a plant in his southeast Wisconsin congressional district near the border with Illinois. And President Donald Trump said in June that his administration was negotiating a U.S. expansion with "a major, major, incredible manufacturer of phones and computers and televisions" and that Walker could be getting a "very happy surprise very soon."
Foxconn assembles smartphones and other devices for Apple, Sony, Blackberry and other brands. Most of its operations are based in China, where its plants employ about 1 million people.
For the company's U.S. plant, Gou has said it is considering Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and Texas as manufacturing states with which the company hopes to work. Michigan passed a series of incentives to lure Foxconn last week, a move that Walker said Thursday was "irrelevant to what we're doing."