Nation & World

Foxconn reverses course - again

Tech company now says it will build Wisconsin factory

Bloomberg

A sign for Foxconn Technology Group is displayed at the company’s booth at the CES Asia 2018 show in Shanghai this past June.
Bloomberg A sign for Foxconn Technology Group is displayed at the company’s booth at the CES Asia 2018 show in Shanghai this past June.
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Two days after Foxconn said it no longer planned to build a sprawling new factory in Wisconsin, the Taiwanese technology giant appears to have reversed course, citing a “personal conversation” with President Donald Trump.

The surprise announcement followed heavy backlash in Wisconsin, which in 2017 agreed to pay the prominent electronics maker and supplier to Apple at least $3 billion in state tax incentives.

At the time, Foxconn pledged to deliver up to 13,000 blue-collar jobs and a $10 billion display-making plant in the state’s southeastern corner — a move Trump repeatedly has touted.

“After productive discussions between the White House and the company, and after a personal conversation between President Donald Trump and Chairman Terry Gou, Foxconn is moving forward with our planned construction of a Gen 6 fab facility, which will be at the heart of the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park,” the company said in a statement Friday.

“This campus will serve both as an advanced manufacturing facility as well as a hub of high technology innovation for the region.”

Foxconn declined to comment on how Friday’s decision was reached and when hiring is expected to begin.

“Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!” Trump tweeted Friday.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

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On Wednesday, Foxconn said it would hire engineers and researchers in Wisconsin, rather than factory workers, asserting a change in global economic conditions had compelled the shift.

That statement was a sharp reversal from its stance two years earlier, when officials announced what was billed to be a local manufacturing revival.

“In Wisconsin we’re not building a factory,” Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chief executive Terry Gou, told Reuters in a report released Wednesday. “You can’t use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment.”

When companies draft factory plans, they conduct months of research, said Jeffrey Dorfman, an economics professor at the University of Georgia who has followed the Foxconn deal. Hundreds of people work on the project, studying the local workforce and infrastructure.

“It takes years to set up supply chains and logistics,” he said. “You don’t just turn around on a dime.”

It’s too early to tell what will unfold in Wisconsin, Dorfman said.

”When the jobs and the manufacturing equipment shows up,” he said, “we’ll believe it.”

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