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New book sheds light on Foxconn debacle and eminent domain

An insightful and provocative book about the planned Foxconn plant in eastern Wisconsin brings to light how governments mishandle eminent domain law. “Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government” by Lawrence Tabak describes how state and local leaders needlessly relied on eminent domain to seize farms and homes for a facility that did not require all the land.

The result: Many acres near Mount Pleasant in Racine County now are barren of any sign of those homes, while Wisconsin taxpayers received bills for new roads that were not needed. This narrative provides another example of a government focusing on the best interest of businesses rather than its residents. A promise of new jobs and a reinvigorated local economy never surfaced, and many families lost their homes forever.

Broken promises

In 2017, Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer Foxconn pledged it would build a large television screen plant near Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. With plans to invest $10 billion, the company promised 13,000 jobs. However, most of this project never came to fruition as earlier this year Foxconn decided to scale back, reducing its investment to $672 million and limiting the jobs to no more than 1,500.

Wisconsin leaders lured Foxconn by making many promises, including one that forced many residents from their homes. The owners of close to 75 homes in the Mount Pleasant area and Racine County received letters in late 2017, declaring that they would lose those homes due to eminent domain.

Homes bulldozed; farms seized

Imagine the stress and worries of many of these people, including those who had owned farms in the family for generations. Coerced to sell their homes and land for a project that barely launched. Foxconn did not need most of the land seized by the government and deeded to the company. Construction crews bulldozed homes, some of which were newly built.

How were the Racine County residents driven from their land? Through eminent domain, the government declared the bucolic region with well-kept homes as “blighted.”

Taking them to task

Something was amiss here, and government leaders let down the people they are supposed to protect. This is an eminent domain matter at its worst and should not have occurred. Tabak’s book takes to task the major players in this debacle.