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State officials bring Foxconn proposition to Chippewa Valley business owners

Over 19 Chippewa Valley businesses see potential in the $20 billion Foxconn Technology Group project slated to break ground on the other side of the state this spring.

Those 19 businesses – and others throughout the Chippewa Valley – may have the opportunity to partner with the Taiwanese company building an electronics manufacturing facility and campus about 30 miles south of Milwaukee in the village of Mount Pleasant.

Officials from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the state Department of Administration outlined the Foxconn project’s current status on Friday at General Beer Northwest in Chippewa Falls.

Business owners may be able to work with Foxconn Technology Group to provide supply chain needs, said Matt Moroney, director of strategic economic initiatives for the state Department of Administration.

“They’ve made a commitment to state that … they’re going to hire a Wisconsin company over a company outside of Wisconsin. That’s their mindset,” Moroney said of Foxconn officials.

Although the Foxconn campus is still in its preliminary stage – company officials are hoping for groundbreaking this spring, Moroney said – if local business owners want to get involved, they need to begin preparing now, said Charlie Walker, president of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC).

“When it does happen, it’s going to happen fast, and we want to be prepared,” Walker said at the meeting, gesturing toward the Fleet Farm distribution center next door in Lake Wissota Business Park. “April 13 will be one year that (Fleet Farm) broke ground, and they’re already operation … But when it hits, we know from experience, it hits fast.”

Walker and the state officials recommended business owners create profiles at a state supply chain website,, to stay on top of opportunities. Foxconn officials have “committed” to using the marketplace to find suppliers, said Jela Trask, WEDC director of business and attraction.

Over 800 Wisconsin companies have profiles on the site, said WEDC communications director Mark Maley.

Foxconn officials intend to spend $1.4 billion annually on services and products, although it’s currently unclear how many of its existing suppliers outside the state the Taiwanese electronics giant will continue to use at its Wisconsin facility, Trask said.

One Chippewa Valley business said it will likely be impacted by Foxconn indirectly, but the huge project presents a different problem. “It has affected us from a business standpoint because of the stance the DOT (Department of Transportation) has taken on where they’re going to put their dollars,” said Sheryl Claflin, president of Chippewa Falls architectural firm CBS Squared. “With us being up here (in Chippewa Falls), they’ve taken dollars that normally would have been spent in our area, and re-focused them down there.”

The company may have to consider adding a new office nearer to the Racine County Foxconn facility, Claflin said. The company currently has offices in Appleton, Chippewa Falls and Woodbury, Minn.

The Wisconsin Foxconn facility will be the company’s first large-scale investment in the United States. The Mount Pleasant facility is expected to employ 13,000 directly and create 28,000 direct jobs, according to figures from the WEDC.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2021 or 2022; product is tentatively expected to begin shipping to the facility and assembly to begin in 2019, Moroney said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


McDonell senior John Francis (42) is congratulated after making a 3-pointer in the closing moments of the McDonell boys basketball team's 78-51 win over Rib Lake on Thursday in Chetek. The Macks face South Shore on Saturday evening in Spooner in the Division 5 sectional finals. For more on the Macks, check out Sports on Page B1.

US says it will hold N. Korea to its promises ahead of summit

WASHINGTON — The White House tried to swat away criticism Friday that the U.S. is getting nothing in exchange for agreeing to a historic face-to-face summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said North Korea has made promises to denuclearize, stop its nuclear and missile testing and allow joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. But questions remained over exactly what North Korea means by “denuclearize” and what the U.S. might be risking with a highly publicized summit that will build up Kim’s stature among world leaders.

“Let’s not forget that the North Koreans did promise something,” Sanders said, responding to a reporter’s question about why Trump agreed to a meeting — unprecedented between leaders of the two nations — without preconditions.

She added: “We are not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea.”

Still, the White House indicated that planning for the meeting was fully on track.

The previous night’s announcement of the summit marked a dramatic turnaround after a year of escalating tensions and rude insults between the two leaders. A personal meeting would have been all but unthinkable when Trump was being dismissed as a “senile dotard” and the Korean “rocket man” was snapping off weapons tests in his quest for a nuclear arsenal that could threaten the U.S. mainland.

North Korea’s capabilities are indeed close to posing a direct atomic threat to the U.S. And the wider world has grown fearful of a resumption of the Korean War that ended in 1953 without a peace treaty.

The prospect of the first U.S.-North Korea summit has allayed those fears somewhat. The European Union, Russia and China — whose leader spoke by phone with Trump on Friday — have all welcomed the move.

North Korea’s government has yet to formally comment on its invitation to Trump. South Korea said the president agreed to meet Kim by May, but Sanders said Friday that no time and place had been set.

The “promises” on denuclearization and desisting from weapons tests were relayed to Trump by South Korean officials who had met with Kim on Monday and brought his summit invitation to the White House. Trump discussed the offer with top aides on Thursday. Some expressed their reservations but ultimately supported the president’s decision to accept it, according to U.S. officials who were briefed on the talks and requested anonymity to discuss them.

Still, some lawmakers and foreign policy experts voiced skepticism about the wisdom of agreeing to a summit without preparations by lower-level officials, particularly given the lack of trust between the two sides. North Korea is also holding three American citizens for what Washington views as political reasons.

“A presidential visit is really the highest coin in the realm in diplomacy circles,” said Bruce Klingner, a Korea expert at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, adding that Trump “seemed to spend it without getting anything in return, not even the release of the three U.S. captives.”

Some say Trump could be setting himself up for failure amid doubts over whether Kim has any intention to relinquish a formidable atomic arsenal that he has made central to his personal stature and North Korea’s standing in the world. Kim would also boost his own standing by becoming the first of the three hereditary leaders of North Korea to sit down with an American president.

Evans Revere, a former senior State Department official experienced in negotiating with North Korea, warned there is a disconnect between how the North and the U.S. describes “denuclearization” of the divided Korean Peninsula. For the U.S. it refers to North Korea giving up its nukes; for North Korea it also means removing the threat of American forces in South Korea and the nuclear deterrent with which the U.S. protects its allies in the region.

“The fundamental definition of denuclearization is quite different between Washington and Pyongyang,” Revere said, noting that as recently as Jan. 1, Kim had vigorously reaffirmed the importance of nukes for North Korea’s security. He said that misunderstandings at a summit could lead to “recrimination and anger” and even military action if Trump were embarrassed by failure.

“There is good reason to talk, but only if we are talking about something that is worth doing and that could be reasonably verified,” said former Defense Secretary William Perry, who dealt with North Korea during President Bill Clinton’s administration. “Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for a major diplomatic failure.”

The White House maintains that Kim has been compelled to reach out for presidential-level talks because of Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure.”

“North Korea’s desire to meet to discuss denuclearization — while suspending all ballistic missile and nuclear testing — is evidence that President Trump’s strategy to isolate the Kim regime is working,” Vice President Mike Pence, who has visited the region, said Friday in a written statement.