Foxconn has scrambled the picture on its plans to build a $10 billion LCD campus in Wisconsin. Reuters reports that the plans — announced amid great fanfare by Donald Trump in 2017 — have recently been scaled back and altered.
While Foxconn originally said it would create a 20-million square foot operation for building the LCD screens, creating 3,000 jobs — with plans for another 10,000 at a later date — it now intends to mostly hire engineers and researchers rather than a manufacturing workforce. One Reuters source estimated that it would probably hire closer to 1,000 workers.
“In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S. We can’t compete,” Louis Woo, an assistant to Foxconn’s chief executive, told Reuters. “Labor prices are higher than other countries,” he added.
Foxconn’s Wisconsin plan has been controversial from the start. While Trump cited it as evidence of a revival in American manufacturing, it took more than $4 billion in state and local tax incentives to entice the Taiwanese company to Wisconsin, and assistance obtaining land through eminent domain.
The problem is that Foxconn’s ultimate goals may not have been the ones they declared so publicly in 2017. Instead, the big announcement may have been more about publicity than manufacturing. Bloomberg columnist Tim Calpan, who wrote two years ago that the project didn’t make sense, added Wednesday that “If Foxconn can’t be competitive making electronics in the U.S., nobody can… Now that Foxconn is acknowledging the truth about manufacturing in America, it might be time for the country to face that same reality.”
As if to prove this, Foxconn hired just 178 workers in 2018, failing to meet the conditions for a $9.5 million tax credit in the process.
Yet Foxconn’s doesn’t only have a Wisconsin problem: it has a global one. The firm is planning cutbacks in other locations and in December Bloomberg reported it planned to cut $2.9 billion from its 2019 expenses to cope with what Foxconn termed “a very difficult and competitive year.”