Hoffman Construction of Black River Falls and its owner, James Hoffman, aren’t exactly household names in Wisconsin. But James Hoffman became a Badger State media darling three years ago when he announced that he was looking to expand his business in Minnesota because of two key policy changes in Wisconsin: Right to Work and Prevailing Wage. From the Cap Times back then:
On the heels of the passage of Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, a Black River Falls construction company is considering expanding its business — in Minnesota.
James Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Construction Company, was openly critical of the bill as it made its way through the Legislature. He, along with Bill Kennedy, owner of Janesville’s Rock Road Companies, Inc., testified against the fast-tracked bill in public hearings before lawmakers.
Hoffman announced his Minnesota plans after being wooed by a Gopher State lawmaker and said the GOP move to repeal prevailing wage was also a factor:
“This isn’t a political decision, it is a business decision,” Hoffman wrote in his response to (Minnesota State Representative Pat)Garofalo. “I understand the MN Governor & Legislature are debating a funding INCREASE for transportation investments, while the Wisconsin Governor has proposed bonding (i.e. credit card) to solve the transportation funding problems. That, combined with Right to Work and proposed repeal of Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage statute lead to my plans to relocate a portion of our business to Minnesota.”
A year later, Hoffman penned a column crowing about the success of his decision:
A little over one year ago, James Hoffman, President of Hoffman Construction Company decided to accelerate his company’s growth in Minnesota in light of Wisconsin’s passage of Right to Work. One year later, Hoffman Construction has landed 5 highway contracts at over $85,000,000 in Minnesota:
“I am very pleased with our success in Minnesota. We decided as a company to pursue a strategy of growth in Minnesota where we saw market potential in highway construction. It’s fruitless to fight your market – better to listen and make changes”, states James Hoffman. “In addition to passing Right to Work, Wisconsin passed changes to Prevailing Wage and currently bonds a significant portion of their highway program, all negative factors to growth. At current bonding levels, almost 25% of Wisconsin’s next transportation program will be directed at repaying bonds. What kind of future is that to grow our business?”
Now, two years later, Hoffman is singing a much different tune about Wisconsin. In a commentary published in Wisconsin newspapers last week, Hoffman had high praise for the Foxconn development and what it means for all of Wisconsin, including his company:
The benefits from the Foxconn Project in Racine County are having positive impacts across Wisconsin and are yielding measurable results in all parts of the state, even up here in Jackson County. This includes the team at Black River Falls-based Hoffman Construction Company, where employment levels have soared and more than 100 jobs have been created as a result of work we have won related to the project in Southeastern Wisconsin, some 220 miles from our headquarters.
Just last month, we hired our 100th new employee to help us complete the mass grading project and the road work in and around Foxconn in Mount Pleasant. The grading project began in May, and workers from across Wisconsin are being recruited to complete this important work.
This project, along with the I-94 North/South Project in the same area, is helping Hoffman Construction Company expand its workforce by at least 50 percent in 2018. We are continuing to explore the possibility of hiring more employees for both projects.
The “Wisconsin First” plan, which favors Wisconsin-based companies, has been successful for the Foxconn mass grading project and has helped ensure that employment opportunities are available to all residents across the state. As of late June, more than 14,000 hours of work has been done by Hoffman Construction Company on the Foxconn project. Nearly 95 percent of the workers on the project are from Wisconsin, with several employees from Jackson County.
Hoffman’s opposition to right to work and his firm’s involvement in a Foxconn related project have an element of irony to them. Walker administration officials have said that Wisconsin now being a right to work state gave it an edge over Illinois and other possible locations for the Foxconn facility. Media Trackers asked Jim Hoffman about that back in January when his firm landed the Foxconn related work:
There are also other reasons(why Foxconn chose Wisconsin); our workforce, opportunities for growth the state has allowed. I don’t have a position on the reason why Foxconn has come to Wisconsin. I do have the position that it’s not about politics. It’s about business. We’ll position our company to take advantage of the market opportunities that come around.
Hoffman’s 2015 comments received a lot of attention from the Wisconsin media. Will his latest comments be noticed?