TO: Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy
FROM: Tom Still, president, Wisconsin Technology Council
RE: Special Session AB 1
Thank you, Chairman Neylon and committee members, for the opportunity to speak today.
The Wisconsin Technology Council is pleased to support efforts to bring Foxconn Technology Group to our state, and our members appreciate the work of this committee to expeditiously move ahead.
As a reminder, the Tech Council is about 15 years old. It is an independent, non-profit group that provides advice to the governor and Legislature on the tech-based economy. Over time, we have been involved in many initiatives that have stimulated that economy, including the passage of the Act 255 investor tax credits, the Badger Fund of Funds, the annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest and much more. We are dedicated to helping grow the tech-based economy, and much of our work centers around entrepreneurs.
Everyone here has heard the numbers: 13,000 direct employees, 22,000 indirect employees, a $10 billion investment, a supply chain that will extend to all corners of Wisconsin and a physical plant – possibly two – of impressive proportions.
What may be less well known are the prospects for Foxconn’s presence in Wisconsin to transform and uplift the state’s tech-based economy, from startups to mature companies. It will put Wisconsin on the map for decades to come.
In my comments, I will focus on the size of the opportunity, some examples of how it will touch a wide range of Wisconsin’s tech sectors, and offer a few suggestions for how to improve the bill.
The first liquid crystal display plant outside Asia will be built here. That is consistent with Wisconsin’s existing expertise in electronics, medical imaging, engineering in all forms and the Internet of Things. We have great expertise in those areas.
It is also complementary to our expertise in automation, medical devices, data science, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, wearables, biotechnology, regenerative medicine, oncology and more. One of the reasons Foxconn was attracted to Wisconsin is our history of quality healthcare and quality research in the life sciences.
The supply chains that will be built around those technologies are real and have the potential to touch all corners of the state.
If this legislation passes, Wisconsin will no longer be a flyover state. It will be a destination state.
What took decades to build in the Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle of North Carolina will be built inside a decade here if Foxconn comes to Wisconsin.
But what happens if the legislation fails to pass? Our fear at the Tech Council is that Wisconsin will fall off the national and international radar screen for many, many years.
Instead of hitting a home run, we would go back to playing “small ball” in the eyes of major companies and site selection experts.
If you are worried about Foxconn pulling out of Wisconsin, the time to worry about that is now – not after they spend $10 billion. Other than the costs associated with vetting American sites, Wisconsin included, the company has yet to invest. Once they do begin that process of investing, they will have 10 billion reasons to stay.
Of course, as legislators, you want to make sure Wisconsin taxpayers are getting a good deal. Not just a deal… but a good deal. While the size of the incentive package is large, it is comparable to incentive plans we have studied in other states.
Our members believe Foxconn’s presence in Wisconsin will transform the economy, top to bottom.
We also believe the process of bringing Foxconn Technology Group should not stand in the way of the state of Wisconsin’s ongoing efforts to assist its vigorous startup economy and broader technology sector. Programs such as the Act 255 credits should continue to evolve and grow.
We also hope and believe Wisconsin companies and researchers will get a fair chance to engage with Foxconn and its supply chain. We’ve fielded a number of inquiries in the past week or so about how to connect with the company. We stand ready to provide an organized pathway for those connections, perhaps through a website that allows Wisconsin companies to register and showcase their basic expertise.
As you consider changes to the bill, please consider “Wisconsin First” language that would encourage the company to involve local suppliers, starting with the design and engineering phases.
The executive committee of the Wisconsin Technology Council urges the committee to give this legislation its full attention. For years, policymakers and others in Wisconsin have worked to create more opportunities to keep our sons and daughters at home. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed.
Testimony of John Neis, Managing Director of Venture Investors and President of the Wisconsin Venture Capital Association linked here: Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy 8-3-17
The Tech Council’s executive committee board of directors’s official statement on Special Session Assembly Bill 1 is linked here: Foxconn resolution 8-2-17
To read comprehensive coverage of the Foxconn fever, please click here.