Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou sign a contract between Wisconsin and Foxconn to build a production facility in Racine County. The event was hosted by SC Johnson and its chairman and CEO, Fisk Johnson.
Mike Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

RACINE – Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn Technology Group Chairman Terry Gou signed off Friday on the biggest development deal in Wisconsin history, inking a contract that provides a once-unimaginable level of state financial aid for a massive manufacturing complex that backers say will transform the state’s economy.

Seated in front of an array of American and Wisconsin flags in a sleek hall at the historic headquarters of S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., Walker and Gou, head of the $135 billion Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, put their signatures on a deal that promises to put an immense liquid crystal display panel factory on 1,000 acres a few miles west, in Mount Pleasant.

In the case of Gou, who wore a white “Wisconn Valley” baseball cap and was given a FOXCONN license plate, it’s personal: The self-made multi-billionaire is himself guaranteeing to pay as much as $500 million if Foxconn reneges on its contractual pledges.

For Walker, it likely will become a political marker the Republican governor will point to as he embarks on a bid for a third term.

And for some 300 government, business and education figures who watched video displays of Foxconn’s technology and rose several times in standing ovations, the signing had the air of a party.

In the end, the event marked a major step — but not the final one — in a months-long effort dating to last spring, when Wisconsin began wooing Foxconn.

“Just think about it,” Walker said shortly before sitting down with Gou to sign the contract. “We’re talking about things we talked about for years (but) we only dreamed of: 13,000 good-paying, family-supporting jobs. That’s just the start.

“We’re going to take the world over when it comes to high-tech technology like we’re going to build … right here in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

It’s a major bet for Walker. He famously pledged Wisconsin would add 250,000 jobs in his first term — a goal on which he fell well short. And critics of the Foxconn deal believe the state is…