Could Foxconn Turn Wisconsin Landowners Into Millionaires?

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Premiere Date: 
July 28, 2017

Could Foxconn Turn Wisconsin Landowners Into Millionaires?

Foxconn is evaluating multiple sites in southeast Wisconsin to build its new electronics plant. The $10 billion facility is required to have at least one thousand acres. Foxconn could be purchasing the land for well above market value, meaning many small landowners could soon be millionaires. Not everyone is happy about it, however. We meet with local landowners to find out how they are feeling.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

According to the governor's office, Foxconn is evaluating multiple sites in southeast Wisconsin to build the plant. The tech giant could make millionaires out of even small land owners. In Racine County, a real estate company has been busy helping to put options to sell in place on parcels of land thought to be under consideration for the $10 billion facility. A requirement for an operation of that size, at least 1,000 acres. That's where our quadrant of land just off the interstate near Racine comes in.

Tom Fliess:

They did approach to ask if I was interested in selling.

Frederica Freyberg:

Farmer Tom Fliess says his son farms the land inside the area reportedly under consideration by Foxconn. But he owns it. Whether he's inclined to sell, he'll only say...

Tom Fliess:

Time will tell, I don't know.

Frederica Freyberg:

Many inside the area, thought to have been offered options to sell, are keeping quiet about it. It's an area of more than 1,000 acres, roughly bound by Interstate 94 on the west, Highway 11 on the north, Highway K on the east, and Brown Road on the south. Some land owners just outside the quadrant have also been engaged.

Sherri Shaver:

A couple weeks ago is when I found out about it from one of the farmers because they contacted him about selling his land. So he let me know because his land surrounds mine.

Frederica Freyberg:

If the options to sell are an indication, the buyer thought to be Foxconn is willing to pay way over market value for the acreage. The owner of this 20 acres for sale, says it's under option at $50,000 an acre. He was asking $12,000. If the option turns into a sale, it makes it a million dollar plot. Sherri Shaver lives across the road from the 1,000 acres being eyed. Looking that way, that would possibly be it, huh?

Sherri Shaver:

That’s it right there for sure. And it's a matter of how much they are going to take on this side.

Frederica Freyberg:

After tending her small country homestead for 23 years, Shaver says she's sad about either prospect, staying or leaving.

Sherri Shaver:

Well, it's been a shock, you know, to think we're going to have a big old factory here. And I might be looking at a factory across from me. But then you know, they might buy me out, so then I’ll have to move.

Frederica Freyberg:

As to the suitability of the land, it's just off the interstate, and is mostly wide open farm land. There's a rail line just east. One day this week, Department of Transportation traffic counters were on-site at two of the crossroads of the location. The local attorney representing land owners says he cannot divulge information, and says he has very little of it anyway. Despite not knowing details, people we talked with are mostly sanguine. Even as this once exclusively rural landscape contemplates a mega electronics plant. What do you think about the potential of 10,000 jobs in this area?

Tom Fliess:

That’s great for people. I don't need 'em for neighbors, but that's fine 'cause I’m a farmer, you know.

Frederica Freyberg:

We're told there is at least one major landowner in that area who is not interested in selling. But according to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in whose district that 1,000 acres sits, municipalities can exercise "eminent domain" to buy them out.

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