Kleefisch says she talked with Foxconn two years ago
Declines to discuss current negotiations with Taiwanese iPhone company

Associated Press

June 20, 2017

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 state.

‘‘We didn’t talk specifics,’’ Kleefisch said.

She 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 growth.’’

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 soon.’’

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.