Farmers, happy or not, reap millions from Foxconn purchases

Rick Romell, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Business News

His desk -- strewn with letters, handwritten notes, a package of crackers and a bag of Bugles -- sits at a south-facing window. Just outside, maybe 15 yards away along Highway H, construction crews are laying a 24-inch water main that will serve Foxconn.

Looking for land

Highway H is to become a divided, four-lane roadway, possibly with bicycle and pedestrian paths on either side. On the current but not yet finalized plans, Fliess' house stands in the way. Also penciled in for what now is his yard is a "gas pressure station."

Fliess' wish to die at home notwithstanding, at some point in the not-too-distant future he'll almost certainly have to move. His plan now is to take his money and buy another farm, not to work it himself -- he hasn't been able to do that for five or six years -- but to leave to his family.

"I need to buy another farm like I need a hole in my head," he said, "but I'll be damned if I'm going to give it all to the government."

His son, while viewing things from a sunnier perspective, has similar plans. In fact, he said, he's already spent "a couple million" of his Foxconn windfall on farmland and plans to buy more.

He was able to find property in Kenosha County for less than $10,000 an acre. Owners closer to his home in Mount Pleasant -- and closer to Foxconn -- want as much as $20,000 an acre, he said.


The younger Fliess said that between the land he sold for Foxconn and land he had rented from his father and others that also is going for the project, he'll lose about half of the 1,500 acres he had been working. His new purchases will help replace that, and he's going to continue farming.

"I'm hoping the next time around is where I get the retirement money," he said.

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