The current line-up of Democratic candidates for governor remind me of some relatives who would visit my parents on lazy Sunday afternoons. Somehow the topic of the weather always would come up and no one ever seemed pleased with it. One aunt in particular always thought it too windy. She seemed unaware the wind allowed for my kites to take flight in the grassy fields.
Meanwhile the candidates seeking the party nomination seem to be fixated on Foxconn, the economic powerhouse planned for Racine County. They seem to be unable–or unwilling–to consider that this new enterprise is the exact type of updraft our state economy could really use. As a consequence, some Democratic voters are wondering what to do when it comes to the summer primary.
The constant scorn and ridicule against Foxconn by the candidates runs counter to what some voters consider to be the only shining example of leadership shown by Governor Scott Walker. While I understand the need for a candidate to connect with voters and curry favor for the primary, I also sincerely wish that Democrats would carry a message about the greater long-term benefits that this liquid crystal display manufacturing campus would bring to our state. I wish there would be a complete presentation about Foxconn which includes the fact our state got a deal that works to our benefit. Foxconn’s investment in Mount Pleasant came without the state needing to pay significant up-front costs. Furthermore, state money comes only after the jobs are created.
I have not been able to line up with any of the numerous candidates seeking the nomination. As a politico it has been hard to sit back and not align with someone–especially given the political climate which greets us hourly (it seems) with a new outrage. While I have deep feelings about the troubling outcomes regarding voter ID, Act 10, and school vouchers I also have a deep regret that the candidates seem unwilling to grasp the many benefits that Foxconn will create for our state.
As I have watched the months pass, and the dialogue only harden it appears that state Democrats might have a problem similar to Republicans. Having long argued that Republicans need to better work at their ability to compromise, it is also apparent that Democrats need to embrace pragmatism. Policy choices that can be sold as a middle path going forward, so to avoid the deep rancor that follows purely partisan moves, is what always best serves citizens. Each of the parties has failed to achieve what our state most needs when it comes to the art of governing.
When it comes to Foxconn it seems–from the perspective of this desk– that candidates want to find a wedge issue from which to showcase themselves. For instance, I am a decades-long admirer of Matt Flynn. I served as his Door County Chair during his bid for the U.S. Senate. I know Flynn to be smart, gracious, and having the leadership qualities that would serve him well in the statehouse. But I am flummoxed by his stand on Foxconn. I really want to support him but can not square how he lacks vision about this matter.
Candidates say the money spent on Foxconn could have made countless investments in small businesses or in educational projects. To them I would argue the same as about the flaw in GOP tax plans. Providing smaller amounts of money scattered about does not have the powerful economic impact that concentrated money, and policy direction allows for when it comes to the larger social need.
Democrats correctly talk about those who do not have the job they wish, are under-employed, or are unable to meet their needs because of wages that are too low. Many of those struggling are parents who grasp the fact the jobs of the future for their children are the type that Foxconn will bring to the state–and still more that will spin off as a result. That latter point is already happening as Tom Still pointed out in the Wisconsin State Journal.
The company announced 28 subcontractors and suppliers for the town of Mount Pleasant project May 7, and all but one of those companies is based in Wisconsin. The only non-Wisconsin firm is a trucking company in Rockford, Ill., just across the border.
Those contractors and suppliers will tackle about $100 million worth of work in the opening phase of the Foxconn project and draw their workers, directly and indirectly, from 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties — in cities such as Black River Falls in the west, Marathon in central Wisconsin, Neenah and Seymour in the Fox Valley, and across southeast Wisconsin.
Those companies will work with general contractors M+W and Gilbane as the Racine County project, projected to be the size of 11 Lambeau Fields, embarks on what is likely to be a four-year buildout.
But what we can not see at this time, but which will follow in the months and years to come, is the economic stimulation that this focused proposal will have on the state’s economy. During the debate in the state legislature one of the points made that should not be discounted is that Foxconn has a record of producing robust healthy economic outcomes for the places where they have a factory. Though it is true I am an optimist by nature it needs to be underscored that facts clearly show how Foxconn has created not only good paying jobs but also economic expansion for the regions where they set up a business site.
The focal point of state candidates should be how to steer our educational system to meet the needs of the tech era. Making sure our fellow citizens are prepared for the skilled jobs of the future, and get the assistance they need to meet the challenges of the modern world, can not be over-stated.
Instead we hear about Foxconn and the undermining of this public-private partnership. The very type of partnership which we need more of across our state. Lets use the campaign to address why these combined interests can work to secure good jobs and lift our tax base, instead of undermining the use of tax incentives–something that is done all over the nation. Make that the world.
I sincerely want a new governor–a Democratic governor! But I also want honest objective discussions about where our economy is headed, how jobs can be created, and the ways to educate future workers. Though I am not a one-issue voter I also am not able to throw aside facts and logic for a political bandwagon headed in the wrong direction.