Wisconsin governor Tony Evers and Foxconn board member Dr Jay Lee have announced a new agreement to revive and remodel the notorious high-tech plant that attracted billions in incentives but appears not to have delivered promised economic benefits.
The plant was announced in 2017, amid much fanfare that Foxconn would spend $10bn on the facility to make LCD displays in Wisconsin. The state government tipped in over $3bn of incentives and then-president Donald Trump hailed the deal as a prime example of his policy to bring manufacturing jobs back to the USA. Trump even dug in with a shovel at the factory's launch and proclaimed it would become the eighth wonder of the world.
The plant was originally promised to employ 3,000 locals and climb to 13,000 once opened. But the number of jobs promised fell to 5,200.
The reduction caused problems with Wisconsin's grant as it was contingent on a minimum number of hires. In 2017 Foxconn even hired workers for just three months and then laid them off in early 2018, thereby qualifying for state support for its 2017 activities.
In January 2019 Foxconn said making TVs in the US was unprofitable and pondered using the facility for R&D instead.
By late 2019 the plant employed just 281 people. An award-winning investigation detailed bored and abused employees without supplies or job descriptions, but nonetheless showing up to work in dilapidated buildings that showed no signs of becoming a mega-campus, never mind a wonder of the world.
Last month a Foxconn representative said the company might shift to manufacturing electric vehicles at the plant instead of displays. Foxconn chairman Liu Young-way said the company was deciding between Mexico and Wisconsin for the EVs.
Let’s check in with that 30,000-job $10bn Trump-Foxconn Wisconsin plant. Wow, way worse than we'd imaginedREAD MORE
Governor Evers, a Democrat who beat Republican Scott Walker with a campaign that featured ads proclaiming Wisconsin had been "Foxconned" by Donald Trump, has now kind-of-endorsed the plant.
"I've said all along that my goal as governor would be to find an agreement that works for Wisconsin taxpayers while providing the support Foxconn needs to be successful here in our state," said Evers in a tweeted statement.
Details of the deal have not been released. Japanese outlet Nikkei speculates the agreement will allow the electronics manufacturer to scale back its originally promised facilities while Wisconsin reduces tax breaks.
Foxconn, which said the project was affected by supply chain issues, has been unable to retreat from the high-profile project and millions of dollars, necessitating this new agreement. ®