Foxconn shelves plans for $10bn factory announced by Trump in White House ceremony

Taiwanese manufacturing giant reconsiders Wisconsin plant that president said would be 'eighth wonder of the world' 

Chris Baynes
Thursday 31 January 2019 11:28
Donald Trump, centre, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, left, and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou participate in a groundbreaking event for the new company's facility in Mount Pleasant in June 2018
Donald Trump, centre, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, left, and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou participate in a groundbreaking event for the new company's facility in Mount Pleasant in June 2018

Foxconn is set to shelve plans for a $10bn (£7.6bn) factory in Wisconsin that Donald Trump claimed heralded the revival of America’s manufacturing industry.

The Taiwanese company said it had reconsidered the proposed production of LCD screens at a 20m-square-foot campus that would have been the largest greenfield project by a foreign firm in US history. It will instead hire white-collar worker such as researchers and engineers.

Mr Trump took credit for the “incredible investment”, which he claimed would not have happened if he had not been elected, when plans for the factory were first announced amid much fanfare at the White House in 2017.

Last year he said the plant, which is under construction in Mount Pleasant, would be “the eighth wonder of the world”.

Foxconn, which was controversially offered $4.8bn (£3.7bn) in tax incentives to secure its investment in Wisconsin, initially planned to manufacture advanced large screen displays for TVs and other products at the facility. It later said it would build smaller LCD screens instead.

Now, the company has admitted those plans will be scaled back or even shelved completely.

Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chief executive Terry Gou, told Reuters: “In terms of TV, we have no place in the US. We can’t compete.”

He said the company was still evaluating options for Wisconsin, but cited the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the US, where labour expenses are comparatively high.

Rather than a focus on LCD manufacturing, Foxconn wants to create a “technology hub” that would largely consist of research facilities along with packaging and assembly operations, Mr Woo said.

“In Wisconsin we’re not building a factory,” he added.

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Earlier this month, Foxconn, which a major supplier to Apple, reiterated its intention to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, but said it had slowed its pace of hiring.

The company initially said it expected to employ about 5,200 people by the end of 2020, a figure which now looks likely to be closer to 1,000 workers.

It is unclear when the full 13,000 workers will be hired.

But three-quarters of those will be in research and development or design - described by Mr Woo as “knowledge” positions - rather than blue-collar manufacturing jobs.

“This news is devastating for the taxpayers of Wisconsin,” said Democrat Gordon Hintz, the minority party leader in the state assembly. “Every step of the way Foxconn has overpromised and under-delivered.”

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