Farmers, happy or not, reap millions from Foxconn purchases

Rick Romell, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Business News

It turns out the rich aren't, in fact, that different from you and me. Some, like Fliess, appear to be happy. Others, like his father, who last week received checks totaling $18 million after selling 380 acres for the Foxconn development, are not.

Standing in a "Proud to be a Farmer" T-shirt at the door of the house where he has lived for more than 50 years, a house near ground zero of the immense factory Foxconn plans to build, the elder Thomas Fliess insisted he never wanted to sell. What he wanted, he said, was "to die on this farm and leave it to my kids."

"Don't congratulate me," he ordered a visitor who had remarked on his new status as a multi-millionaire.

"I've (already) got enough money to get me under the sod and that's all I'm interested in," he said. "I'm an old man."

Fliess will turn 83 this week. After a lifetime of farm and factory work, he is so hobbled that he literally bends 45 degrees at the waist when he walks -- which he does with agonizing slowness.

"My back is gone, my leg is gone," he said as he pulled himself up the half-dozen or so stairs to his kitchen landing. "I only had one all my life. ... Got it cut off in a corn binder when I was a kid, 4 years old."


Which didn't stop him much.

"Thirty years I worked at American Motors," he said. "Night shift ... six o'clock in the morning I was up farming. Nobody gave me nothing. I bought it all myself."

The walls and shelves in Fliess's little home office are packed with toy tractors (Internationals mostly -- his preferred brand) and photos of his late wife, Alice, who died in 1997, and of their many descendants.

"We've got 19 grandchildren," he said, "and probably in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 great grandchildren. I don't know."


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