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About a year ago Wisconsin’s southeastern counties began to rumble; a major industrial development was headed our way. After weeks of speculation and rumor, Foxconn Technology Group emerged as the company that could possibly reshape our corner of the state for decades to come.

At last week’s groundbreaking County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said: “Less than one year ago, we learned that Racine County would be home to Foxconn’s first major North American investment. Since that time, we’ve built a great partnership with Foxconn and demonstrated unprecedented intergovernmental cooperation as the company has strengthened its unparalleled commitment to Racine County and the State of Wisconsin. I’m proud to call Racine County the home of Foxconn.”

Racine County Eye readers commenting on our coverage of the groundbreaking were less enthused.

Guests at Foxconn’s Opus facility, 13315 Globe Drive, Mount Pleasant, were given souvenir hats, each with their name embroidered on it, Thursday, June 28, 2018. The event, headlined by President Donald J. Trump, followed a ceremonial groundbreaking event at one of Foxconn’s nearby construction sites. (c) Mark Hertzberg for

Heidi Kahle Graham wrote that Foxconn “is going to be sucking 7 million gallons of water a day out of Lake Michigan! Not to mention they are a private company who basically stole the land and homes from the people who lived there thanks to that idiot Gov. Walker who first took it by eminent domain and then turned around and sold it to Foxconn. Dirty dealings going on all around.”

Foxconn has heard the criticism that its plans to pull and then replace millions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan every week. Wisconsinites will politely swallow most insults and inconveniences; they will NOT, however, accept you messing with their lake. Foxconn recently announced plans to significantly reduce its water usage. The company knows how to shift the narrative, that’s for sure.

Slick messaging

The company has a slick public relations and communications arm that has done an excellent job keeping positive news coverage flowing.  I say that with absolutely no snark attached. I have been working as a journalist for 45 years, and the people who are shaping and delivering the Foxconn news are pros. And that can make reporters and editors lazy. We can get anything we want from them, but it has no shades of gray. It will be factual and data-backed but it will always be lacking the messier aspects of the project. It will be up to us to dig deeper, and for you to put all news about Foxconn under a microscope.

Positive comments stack up

“Bringing jobs to Wisconsin and people make negative comments?” That seemed to bother reader Linda Pawlowski. “Why can’t we come together? It saddens me to read all the negativity. God bless America! God bless our President.”

Jesus Luffy Acuna noted that its not just Foxconn making waves in the local economy. He pointed to HARIBO and Uline as companies that have made “notable” commitments to the area. “This means a lot to us here in Wisconsin,” he wrote, and that he was “glad to see the rest of the world sees our Midwestern work ethic.”

Similar thoughts were echoed by J. Thomas Adams. “Something has to be done to create thousands of good-paying jobs,” he wrote in a comment on our coverage of the Foxconn groundbreaking. “The critics of this plan have yet to offer an alternative solution, only complaints.”

But criticism of the project, including the massive amounts of tax credits and subsidies to a single company, will continue to annoy many. One reader suggested that the state and county have put too much money in one place.

Kjell Erlandsson wrote that “as an alternative, you could subsidize 1,000 domestic Wisconsin small companies with $4 million each. That is a great alternative, and it would diversify the employment portfolio for the state.

“I don’t think the government should be involved with big subsidies in a free market in the first place, and if you have a great urge to blow $4 billion, it could better be used to shore up our educational system and raise the level of future employees and basic research.”

We invite you to get involved in the discussion. It’s not going to end anytime soon. See our invitation to speak up and ask the questions that are important to you.

Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.