Foxconn Said to Be Reevaluating Wisconsin Plant Strategy
Update (Feb 1, 1:50pm): It looks like Foxconn has once again changed its mind. The Verge reported today that, after a "personal conversation" with President Trump, Foxconn will build a factory in Wisconsin after all.
“After productive discussions between the White House and the company, and after a personal conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Terry Gou, Foxconn is moving forward with our planned construction of a Gen 6 fab facility,” a statement read. The Gen 6 facility is still much smaller in scope than the Gen 10.5 facility that was promised in 2017. Despite the statement, there were no other details shared about timing or when the factory would be built. Heck, this might not even be a part of the same scope of work anymore.
It’s been over a year and a half since ground was broken on a major plot of land in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, where Foxconn said it planned to build a major U.S.-based manufacturing plant for its advanced large screen displays—a sign that President Donald Trump’s promise of bringing manufacturing jobs back into the U.S. was well on its way towards being kept. However, a new report from Reuters this week suggests that Foxconn is reconsidering its strategy around that 20-million square foot campus and what types of employees it will hire to work there.
For what it’s worth, this plant has been the source of a great deal of controversy and conflict in the state of Wisconsin almost since Governor Scott Walker first announced the planned partnership back in 2017. This latest development will just add fuel to that fire.
According to Reuters, the Foxconn campus may end up being more of a research and development-type operation than one that focuses on manufacturing—that’s at least according to Louis Woo, a special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, who spoke with the news outlet. Though the initial plan was to use the space as a major manufacturing hub for the company, Woo said, the company is evaluating its options because of the “steep costs” of making their advanced screens here in the U.S.
“In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.," he said in the interview with Reuters. "We can't compete. … In Wisconsin we’re not building a factory. You can’t use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment.”
Woo said the company wants to create more of a “technology hub” in the state that would largely consist of research facilities as well as packaging and assembly operations. The company would also consider producing specialized tech products for industrial, healthcare, and professional applications. It’s Foxconn’s belief that, given the cost of employment here in the U.S., it’d be cheaper and more profitable for the company to manufacture its LCD panels in China or Japan and import them into the U.S.
Foxconn did reiterate that it still intends to create 13,000 jobs for Wisconsin related to the site. However, the company has slowed its pace of hiring. As the Reuters report pointed out through a company source, Foxconn is on pace to hire roughly 1,000 workers at the site by the end of 2020, which is well short of the 5,200 that was initially promised. In all, the company expects that roughly three quarters of its Wisconsin-based employees will focus on research efforts.
What We’re Reading
- Robocallers hit Americans with 26.3 billion spam calls last year. (The Verge)
- Verizon beat quarterly profit estimates, announced plans to spend more this year on its 5G rollout. (Fox Business)
- Starting February 1, American Airlines will give domestic flight passengers access to Apple Music free of charge. (TechCrunch)