How Wisconsin Got “Foxconned”

It’s been four years since Wisconsin inked a contract with Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn. The year was 2017, President Trump was in office, and then-Governor Scott Walker was running for re-election. After just months of consideration, Walker signed an agreement for Foxconn to come to southern Wisconsin — after all, Wisconsin was “open for business.”

At the time, Foxconn promised to invest $10 billion into a high-tech LCD screen manufacturing facility. They said it could bring 13,000 jobs to the state, the majority of them blue-collar, family-supporting jobs. But four years later, the plan to build LCD screens has not materialized. Foxconn is expressly not producing LCD screens, while weighing what to do with the thousands of the acres of land and new infrastructure built explicitly for them. Meanwhile, homeowners have been evicted from their homes and the State of Wisconsin and Mount Pleasant are now on the hook if Foxconn backs out of the deal.

I sat down with Madison-based journalist Lawrence Tabak, who has been reporting on the Foxconn deal since its beginnings and is out this month with a new book about it. It’s called Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government, released from the University of Chicago Press in November 2021.

We discuss the context of the deal at the time, the flaws of the underlying economic analysis produced by Foxconn analysts, the “blighting” of the land and eviction of Mount Pleasant homeowners (and the unusual clearance granted by the legislature to do so), the future of Wisconn Valley and why Governor Evers renegotiated the deal – plus why the abundance of governmental-sponsored economic development is a bad deal.

Useful links: 

  • Find this post on
  • Visit Lawrence Tabak’s website, and follow him on Twitter here.
  • Find Tabak’s new book from the University of Chicago Press, here.
  • Read more of Tabak’s reporting in Belt Magazine and the American Prospect
  • More listening: Tone Madison interviewed Tabak in 2018; Reply All explored the local politics and evicted homeowners in 2018.
Categorized as Interviews

City Of Madison Faces Lawsuit Over Police Oversight Board

The Madison Common Council formally established the Police Civilian Oversight Board last September. The 13-member board was years in the making, and intended to bring more oversight and accountability to the Madison Police Department.

Now, it’s the subject of a federal lawsuit against the City of Madison. My report for WORT News.

Read on Picture of demonstration on May 30, 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.

Categorized as Reporting


At a community radio festival in iconic Warner Park. September 12, 2021.

Another view of the state capitol from Gilman St. August 13, 2021.

My cat’s obsessed with CSA flowers. Okay, that might be me. July 31, 2021.

Masks proffered on the East Side. November 27, 2020.

Two camps emerged outside the state Capitol on November 7, 2020 — the date the presidential race was called for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris.

An installation from artist Jenny Holzer outside the Majestic Theatre in Madison.
October 12, 2020.

Ducks in Monona Bay. September 29, 2020.

George Floyd protests outside the Capitol. May 30, 2020.

May 30,2020.

May 30,2020.

May 30,2020.

Protest on John Nolen Drive. June 1, 2020.

A racial justice protest on John Nolen Drive. June 1, 2020.

June 2, 2020.

A message in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood. Summer 2020.

An abandoned sign during racial justice protests. Summer 2020.

July 25, 2020.


Signature cow at the Prairie du Sac Cow Chip Festival. August 31, 2019.
Tea towel moons designed & printed by yours truly. May 17, 2019.
Frozen pipes in Reynolds Park. February 2, 2019.

Lemon symmetry. January 4, 2019.


A storm in Giddings Park. October 20, 2018.

Flooding in Tenney Park. August 24, 2018.

Flooding in Tenney Park. August 24, 2018.

A flower in Reynolds Park. August 18, 2018.

A wall drenched in rain. August 6, 2018.

Shadows. July 21, 2018.

Outside the Wisconsin State Capitol. June 30, 2018.


Motor oil cocktails, an installation in a college glass course. The installation was a commentary on oil addiction as well as an exploration of a new medium. 2017.
Motor oil cocktails, an installation in a college glass course. The installation was a commentary on oil addiction as well as an exploration of a new medium. 2017.
Motor oil cocktails, an installation in a college glass course. The installation was a commentary on oil addiction as well as an exploration of a new medium. 2017.


A view of a tree inside the old Garver Feed Mill, taken during a college photography course. 2016.

Categorized as Photos

How Big Oil Lied About Plastic Recycling

I got a chance to talk with Laura Sullivan, an award-winning investigative reporter for NPR and on-air correspondent for FRONTLINE. Her recent reporting on plastics documents the ways big oil misled the public into believing plastic would be recycled.

Listen on

Categorized as Interviews

Debunking Myths About Mass Incarceration

I spoke with journalist and author Victoria Law, author of the new book Prisons Make Us Safer: And 20 Other Myths About Mass Incarceration.

It’s a primer that makes many bold claims: that prisons are working exactly as they were designed as a method of racialized social control; that jails and prisons are not a motivating factor in the purported goal of preventing crime; that jails and prisons place the onus for crime and violence on the individual and divert attention from the social, political, and economic conditions that foster harmful actions. Many hefty ideas in a slim tone.

Listen to the interview on

Categorized as Interviews

Accountability in the Flint Water Crisis

Top Michigan officials – including former governor Rick Snyder – were indicted on charges that ranged from willful neglect of duty and involuntary manslaughter to obstruction of justice after a new investigation into the Flint water crisis.

It’s a crisis that combined a city’s fiscal distress with politics and ignorance of environmental factors to create disaster: lead poisoning, and a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.

I took a deep dive into the history and the details of the Flint water crisis with ProPublica journalist Anna Clark, author of the book The Poisoned City.

Read/listen to the show on

Categorized as Interviews

“We Been Not Breathin'”: Doulas Demand Change

Black babies in Wisconsin die at a higher rate than any other state.

And nationally, Black mothers die in childbirth at a rate that’s three times greater than that of white mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of those deaths are preventable.

Those racial inequities for women and children are why hundreds marched in downtown Madison on Saturday. Protestors marched from the Wisconsin State Capitol to Meriter Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital, where organizers described their own experiences, and demanded change.

The march, titled “We Been Not Breathin’,” was the eighth day of continuous Black Lives Matter protests in Madison in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Read on This report received a gold award in the Milwaukee Press Club’s 2020 Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism Awards.

Categorized as Reporting

An Exploration of Neon in Three Parts

My obsession with glass crept back in a three-part show about the magical world of neon signs.

I spoke with Luis de Miranda, a philosopher and author of Being and Neonness, a cultural history of neon published by MIT Press.

I spoke with Tom Zickuhr, a commercial neon signmaker in Madison. His neon signs light up businesses all across the city. We spoke at his east-side studio.

And I spoke with Meryl Pataky, an Oakland-based sculptor and artist, and curator of She Bends– a national exhibition of work by women neon benders.

Listen to the show on

Categorized as Interviews

A Wisconsin Hemp Harvest

A bill passed in 2017 allowed Wisconsin farmers the opportunity to grow hemp for the first time in nearly fifty years.

Whilden Hughes, of Hughes Farms in Rock County, was just one two farmers in Rock County, and one of only 184 operations in the state, who were registered and licensed to grow hemp for the first time.

He joined me on the phone after his harvest in September 2018.

Read/listen on

Categorized as Interviews