MADISON — Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said Monday she
first talked two years ago with officials from a
Taiwanese company that builds iPhones and other
electronics about considering expanding in Wisconsin.
Kleefisch told The Associated Press that she met with
Foxconn officials during a trade mission in 2015 that
took her and other state economic development officials
to Japan and Taiwan. Foxconn said in January it is
looking to make a $7 billion investment in the United
States and employ as many as 50,000 people.
Kleefisch said she had a ‘‘great, general wide-ranging
conversation’’ with Foxconn officials about what
Wisconsin had to offer — including an educated
workforce, access to ports and other transportation
networks, manufacturing building capacity — but did not
go into detail about what it may be considering for the
‘‘We didn’t talk specifics,’’ Kleefisch said.
declined to discuss the current status of negotiations,
citing a non-disclosure agreement with the company.
Officials with the state jobs agency, the Wisconsin
Economic Development Corporation, have also declined to
comment on any potential Foxconn deal. ‘‘It’s up to them
what direction they head in,’’ Kleefisch said of Foxconn.
‘‘I will always be an advocate for long-term business
Foxconn company assembles smartphones and other devices
for Apple, Sony, Blackberry and other brands — mostly in
China, where its
plants employ about 1 million people. Foxconn CEO Terry
Gou said in January that Pennsylvania was the leading
candidate for the plant, which would work with the
company’s Sharp subsidiary.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick
Snyder both flew to Japan the same weekend two weeks
ago. Snyder since confirmed it was to speak with Foxconn
officials, while Walker’s office has said it was only to
pursue an economic development opportunity.
Hopes of Foxconn choosing Wisconsin rose last week when
President Donald Trump alluded to negotiations with an
unspecified company during a visit to Milwaukee, saying
negotiations were happening with a ‘‘major, incredible
manufacturer of phones and computers and televisions’’
and Walker might get ‘‘a very happy surprise very
Foxconn also has a history of not following through on
potential large investments. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom
Corbett announced in 2013 that Foxconn was going to
spend $30 million on a new manufacturing site in his
state, but it’s yet to be built.
State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, husband to the lieutenant
governor, said last week that he would take the lead on
any economic development incentives the state may need
to enact to compete with other states vying for the
Foxconn plant or plants.
Kleefisch has made economic development a focus of her
work as lieutenant governor under Walker the past 6 1/2
years. She just returned from a Mexican trade mission,
similar to the one that took her to Japan and Taiwan two
years ago, where she worked to help Wisconsin businesses
make connections and close deals.
Three Wisconsin companies traveled on the Mexican trade
mission with Kleefisch: Brandtjen and Kluge, a specialty
print finishing and converting equipment company based
in St. Croix Falls; CORNCOB, Inc., a Milwaukee- based
water technology company; and Rosewood Dairy Inc., a
cheese manufacturer in Algoma.