MILWAUKEE — Moments before Vice President Mike Pence took the stage here Wednesday to tout President Donald Trump’s agenda, Foxconn executive Louis Woo credited Trump and Gov. Scott Walker with the company’s plan to build a massive new manufacturing campus in Wisconsin.
The exchange came at an event sponsored by the pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies. Remarks by Pence and Walker, who introduced the vice president, focused on the recent GOP overhaul of the federal tax code and other Trump measures that the two Republicans said are fueling a booming U.S. economy.
Foxconn plans to build a $10 billion facility in Racine County to manufacture liquid crystal display screens, and which eventually could employ as many as 13,000. Woo, who appeared in a panel discussion before Pence took the stage, said 90 percent of the contractors that will build the facility will be from Wisconsin.
Woo said Taiwan-based Foxconn, a contract manufacturer of smartphones and other electronics, has been thinking for years about creating a manufacturing footprint in the U.S. He said the “pro-business policies” of the Trump administration and Walker’s efforts to lure the company were critical in its decision to build the facility now — and in Wisconsin.
Woo also suggested that construction of the Foxconn facility is poised to get underway at the Mount Pleasant site.
“In the next two or three days, you will hear the news that an actual construction on this site in Racine County would begin,” Woo said.
Foxconn officials did not immediately clarify Wednesday if Woo meant there will be an announcement in two or three days, or that construction would begin within that time frame.
Foxconn said last month it would begin hiring construction workers within 60 days. The facility is expected to be operational by 2020.
Also Wednesday, the state Department of Natural Resources announced it approved a permit allowing the city of Racine to divert an annual average of 7 million gallons a day of water from Lake Michigan for the village of Mount Pleasant, where the Foxconn campus will be located.
Woo’s appearance at the event with Pence and Walker is notable, in part, because the governor is entering what could be a competitive re-election campaign. Walker was the chief architect of a package to give Foxconn $3 billion in state aid, mostly in the form of tax credits linked to job creation, to locate in Wisconsin. But several of Walker’s Democratic challengers have raised the possibility of ending the Foxconn deal if they’re elected.
Pence was in Milwaukee in part to attend a fundraising event with Walker. In his public remarks, Pence said Trump has kept his promises on overhauling the tax code, boosting U.S. military spending, putting the Islamic State terror group in retreat and building a border wall with Mexico.
Pence said that in Wisconsin, factories have added more than 16,000 new jobs since Election Day 2016.
“Jobs are coming back, confidence is coming back, and under President Donald Trump, America is back — and we’re just getting started,” Pence said.
Pence said the federal tax changes will simplify and cut taxes for most families. He blasted Democrats, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, who is up for re-election this year, for opposing the law.
Pence urged the overwhelmingly supportive crowd to share what he described as stories of Trump’s success that he said the media is overlooking.
“I want to challenge you to let your voice be heard,” Pence said. “Go out and tell the story of what’s happening in this country.”
Walker, speaking at the event, touted Wisconsin’s 2.9 percent unemployment rate and the federal tax changes, which he said will deliver a meaningful tax cut to the average family in Wisconsin.
One of the attendees at the event, Mary Jo Rust of Northbrook, Illinois, said she appreciated that Pence closed his remarks by quoting Scripture.
“What a blessing to have a man of God in such a position of leadership,” Rust said.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Brad Bainum said in a statement that Pence was in Milwaukee to help Walker “raise campaign dollars off of the Republican tax law that disproportionately rewards GOP mega-donors and big corporations, while hard-working Wisconsinites foot the bill.
“Republican fundraising off of their scam tax law is pay-to-play politics at its worst,” Bainum said.