- In this June 28, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump
takes a tour of Foxconn with Foxconn chairman Terry Gou,
right, and CEO of SoftBank Masayoshi Son in Mt.
Pleasant, Wis. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers' administration
and Foxconn Technology Group say that a massive project
planned for the state is moving forward, while disputing
Republicans who blamed the new Democratic governor for a
change in direction away from manufacturing toward more
white collar jobs. Foxconn said Wednesday that it was
shifting the focus of the Wisconsin project away from
making high-tech flat panel screens for televisions and
other products in favor of a research and development
MADISON — Foxconn Technology
Group has shifted its stated strategy yet again on Friday for
a massive Wisconsin campus, crediting a conversation with
President Donald Trump for cementing plans to proceed with
building a factory to make high-tech liquid display screens.
The news capped a week of
confusion about Foxconn's plans in Wisconsin. The company
announced in 2017, to much fanfare, that it planned to invest
$10 billion in the state and hire 13,000 people to build an
LCD factory that could make screens for televisions and a
variety of other devices.
The company last year said it
was reducing the scale of what was to be made in Wisconsin,
from what is known as a Gen 10 factory to Gen 6. But this
week, even that was thrown into question with Foxconn
executive Louis Woo said it couldn't compete in the television
screen market and would not be making LCD panels in Wisconsin.
But on Friday, in yet another
twist, Foxconn said after discussions with the White House and
a personal conversation between Trump and Foxconn chairman
Terry Gou, it plans to proceed with the smaller manufacturing
"Great news on Foxconn in
Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!" Trump
Wisconsin's new Democratic
governor criticized the company Friday for its flip-flopping.
"There's no limit,
frankly, to skepticism if the messaging isn't coherent,"
Evers told reporters. "I'm comfortable that they're still
committed to the state. They're committed to this Generation 6
technology, but that doesn't mean that we (won't) encourage
them to be more transparent and consistent in their
The latest Foxconn statement
did not say whether the commitment to this size factory would
affect the type of workers who would be employed in Wisconsin.
Foxconn executive Louis Woo told Reuters earlier this week
that about three-quarters of workers in Wisconsin would be in
research and development-type jobs, not manufacturing. Woo
said the Wisconsin project would be more of a research hub,
rather than having a manufacturing focus.
A Foxconn spokeswoman had no
immediate comment about what its plans to build the "Gen
6" factory would mean for the makeup of the workforce.
The difference between a "Gen 10" and "Gen
6" plant rests with the size of the original glass used
to make the screens. The larger plant, which had been part of
Foxconn's initial plans, would have used glass more than
three-times as large as what the smaller facility will use.
The "Gen 6" plant can make screens ranging in size
from a smart phone to a 75-inch television, while the larger
plant would have allowed for devices as large as 9½ feet by
The "Gen 6" plant is
expected to be smaller in size and less expensive than a
"Gen 10" factory, but Foxconn has not specified just
how large it will be.
Foxconn, the world's largest
electronics company, said Friday the campus will house both an
advanced manufacturing facility and a center of
"technology innovation for the region."
Local Wisconsin government and
economic development officials where the Foxconn campus is
located praised the news, saying construction of the "Gen
6" factory will coincide with construction of other
related buildings over the next 18 months.
Wisconsin promised nearly $4
billion in state and local tax incentives to Foxconn if it
invested $10 billion and created 13,000 jobs for the project,
which Trump heralded last year as the "eighth wonder of
But Foxconn has repeatedly
revised its plans for what will be made in Wisconsin and who
will work there, causing confusion in the state and leading
critics of the project this week to accuse Foxconn of a
"bait and switch."
The original deal was struck by
then-Gov. Scott Walker and Trump. Evers, Wisconsin's current
governor who used Walker's support for Foxconn against him in
the race, was a critic of the project during the campaign but
has said this week he's working closely with Foxconn on the
Foxconn earlier this week cited
a changing global market as requiring a move away from making
LCD panels in Wisconsin. Apple is Foxconn's main manufacturing
customer and it has forecast a drop in revenue from the
Chinese market due to decreasing demand for iPhones.
look at key moments in Foxconn's plan for Wisconsin plant
MADISON — Taiwanese company
Foxconn Technology Group shifted its stated plans yet again on
Friday for a massive Wisconsin technology campus. Here's a
look at key moments in the development of the project:
July 26, 2017: President Donald
Trump announces Foxconn Technology Group will build a plant in
southeastern Wisconsin . The company says it will invest $10
billion in a manufacturing campus that will produce large,
Generation 10.5 liquid-crystal-display flat screens for
big-screen TVs, self-driving cars, notebooks and other
monitors. The company says the project could employ up to
Sept. 18, 2017: Republican Gov.
Scott Walker signs an unprecedented $3 billion state
incentives package for the plant, brushing aside critics who
warn the package is too expensive.
Oct. 4, 2017: Foxconn announces
the plant will be built in Mount Pleasant in Racine County,
about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Milwaukee.
Dec. 5, 2017: The Racine County
Board approves borrowing nearly $80 million to help pay for
costs associated with the plant.
April 24, 2018: The Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources approves air permits for the
April 26, 2018: The DNR
approves a request from the city of Racine to pull 7 million
gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan to serve the
May 25, 2018: Environmental law
firm Midwest Environmental Advocates asks an administrative
law judge to block the Lake Michigan withdrawal , arguing it
violates the Great Lakes Compact. The case is still pending.
June 28, 2018: Foxconn breaks
ground in Mount Pleasant. Trump attends and calls the plant
"the eighth wonder of the world." That same day
Foxconn announces it now plans to build much smaller
Generation 6 screens and phase in production of Generation
10.5 screens later. Generation 6 production uses different
machinery and is much cheaper than Generation 10.5 companies,
according to industry experts.
August 29, 2018: The first
walls for the campus go up in Mount Pleasant.
November 6, 2018: Democrat Tony
Evers, a critic of the project, defeats Walker in the
Jan. 18, 2019: Foxconn finished
20/78 full-time employees in Wisconsin, 82 workers short of
the minimum required to claim job-creation tax credits.
Jan. 30, 2019: Louis Woo,
special assistant to Foxconn's CEO, sends a shockwave through
Wisconsin when he tells Reuters that the company will scale
back and possibly shelve plans to build display screens in the
state, saying the company can't compete. He says the Mount
Pleasant facility will still perform manufacturing tasks but
three-quarters of the workers will focus on research and the
site would be more of a research hub.
Feb. 1, 2019: Foxconn changes
its plans again after Chairman Terry Gou speaks directly with
Trump, announcing the company will make Generation 6 screens
at the Mount Pleasant site after all . Evers tells reporters
that the company needs to improve its messaging and
transparency, saying "there's no limit to skepticism if
the messaging isn't coherent."
FACT CHECK: Taxpayers have already spent money on Foxconn
Confusion has swirled around
electronic manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group's plans for a
$10 billion campus in southeast Wisconsin that promised to
bring 13,000 jobs — most of them blue-collar factory
positions— to build high-tech display screens.
Wisconsin lawmakers offered up
to $2.85 billion worth of incentives in 2017 to lure the
world's largest electronics manufacturer to the state,
sparking criticism that the state was giving away too much
But Foxconn's plans were thrown
into doubt Wednesday when a company official said that the
Taiwanese company was backing away from making LCD panels in
favor of becoming a "technology hub" employing
mostly research, development and design jobs. The company
again shifted course Friday, saying it would return to earlier
plans to make the LCD panels after a conversation between
Foxconn's chairman and President Donald Trump.
statements triggered a flurry of finger-pointing among
Wisconsin politicians this week.
In a joint statement,
Wisconsin's Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate
Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald defended the Foxconn
incentive package they helped create.
A look at one of the claims
made in their statement:
THE CLAIM: "Not a dollar
would be paid out until jobs in the Foxconn development area
were created. The incentive package is based on fulfilling the
contract." - Vos and Fitzgerald in a statement Wednesday.
THE FACTS: The claim is
Vos and Fitzgerald were
referring to the state's 15-year deal that provides Foxconn
with roughly $2.85 billion if the company meets capital
investment and job creation goals. The company did not meet
its job creation projection of 260 employees last year,
instead hiring 178 employees, and did not take its first
eligible state tax credit worth up to $9.5 million. The state
has not paid out job credits to Foxconn yet.
But the Republican leaders are
leaving out tens of millions that taxpayers have spent on the
project in other ways.
As part of the Foxconn
legislation passed in 2017, the state agreed to give a $15
million grant to the village of Mount Pleasant, where Foxconn
is slated to open its three-phase project. That money was
disbursed to the village between November 2017 and June 2018,
according to the state's non-partisan Legislative Fiscal
Mount Pleasant and Racine
County officials agreed to spend as much as $764 million to
help lure Foxconn to Wisconsin. So far, $190 million has been
spent from the village fund dedicated to the project,
according to public documents. (In 2017, Foxconn deposited $60
million into that account and will continue to make tax
payments into the fund in future years based on its property
Nearly $170 million of those
funds were used to buy up land and relocate people from their
homes to make way for the project, offering $50,000 per land
acre and paying 140 percent of the appraised value for homes,
according to village documents . Village officials have
acquired roughly 82 percent of the 2,873 acres Foxconn wants
to build on for its three-phase project. The remaining $20
million has been spent on financing, legal costs, as well as
sewer and water infrastructure costs for Foxconn, village
documents provided to the AP show .
That spending could also have
repercussions for state taxpayers if the Foxconn project hits
As part of the Foxconn deal,
Wisconsin legislators agreed to pay up to 40 percent of local
government debt for the project, if asked to do so. Last year,
the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that for every $100
million local governments borrow and cannot repay for the
Foxconn project, the state could be on the hook for as much as
$64 million, once interest repayment is included.
The credit rating agency
Moody's Investors Service noted the state's obligation on the
Foxconn project in a statement Thursday, which forecasts
financial risks for Mount Pleasant, Racine County and
"They're offering this
commitment that if the village gets into trouble, (state
officials) will do everything they can to ask the Legislature
to appropriate monies to pay the debt service," said
Moody's lead analyst Josh Grundleger.
Other costs to taxpayers are
harder to quantify, said Steven Deller, an economist at
University of Wisconsin-Madison. For example, the state has
put manpower into crafting the deal and consulting with
outside lawyers for the project.
"In terms of people hours,
putting this package together — that's incalculable — I
don't think they've been keeping track of how much staff time
has been put into this," Deller said.