At town hall discussion, Mt. Pleasant explores what's next after Foxconn promises fall way short

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MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Community members in Mt. Pleasant are still calling for answers on the Foxconn project, more than five years after an agreement was reached to bring billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Southeastern Wisconsin.

Wednesday night, on Aug. 31, a community group hosted a town hall meeting to explain where things stand right now. The answers aren't always easy to find, but people who were supposed to benefit want answers.

Kathleen Gallagher is a former investigative journalist who covered the project in its earliest phases. During the panel discussion she took issue with something a fellow panelist said, and responded, "It's time for our first fight."

Her comment was in jest, but the frustration was real. Dozens of people gathered to try and understand why the Foxconn project has so far not delivered on what was promised.

Kelly Gallaher, organizer of the watchdog group "A Better Mt. Pleasant," said, "There's a great deal of frustration. Clearly Foxconn has not turned out the way we had all hoped it would."

Gallaher said the community's concerns are extensive, and there are no easy answers. She said, "How did we get here? What happened? But most importantly, what do we do next? What are our options?"

Panelists included a lawmaker, authors and a professor.

Lawrence Tabak wrote a book on the saga called Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government. He told the audience, "It's a complicated story, and that's why I devoted a whole book to it."

The project was sold as a $10 billion investment in a manufacturing plant that would employ 13,000 people full time.

Rep. Gordon Hintz, a Democrat from Oshkosh, said "For I think a lot of us in the legislature in Wisconsin, it certainly checked a lot of boxes. Especially for this part of the state that has an incredibly proud manufacturing history."

But last year the state renegotiated the deal to try to salvage a few hundred million dollars. Currently only about 1,200 people work there.

Tabak said, "It definitely struck me from the beginning, there was a disconnect between what was promised and what was within the capabilities Foxconn could deliver."

Rep. Hintz said, "Labor costs here are eight times higher, there's no supply chain, we don't do electronic manufacturing in this country."

A cluster of high-tech facilities was promised, but right now the Foxconn land sits underdeveloped, and not paying off for the surrounding communities.

Gallagher said, "You said it's valuable, I think it's valuable when someone makes it valuable."

Representatives from Foxconn were invited to participate in the town hall but did not respond to organizers.

When we asked Foxconn for an interview or comment, a spokesperson told us no one was available.

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