By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Foxconn Technology Group said Friday that, after speaking directly to President Donald Trump, it is now proceeding with plans to build a plant in Wisconsin to make liquid-crystal-display screens that can be used for small electronic devices.
The news capped a week of sometimes-contradictory reports about Foxconn’s intentions in Wisconsin. The company announced in 2017, to much fanfare, that it would spend $10 billion in the state and hire 13,000 people to build an LCD factory that could make screens for televisions and a variety of other devices.
It wasn’t long before changes started being made. First, the company said it would reduce the size of the products it was planning to make in Wisconsin, going from having what is known as a Gen 10 factory to a Gen 6. Then, this week, even that was thrown into question when the Foxconn executive Louis Woo said the company couldn’t compete in the television-screen market and would not be making LCD panels in Wisconsin.
But in yet another twist on Friday, Foxconn said it plans to go back to building a Gen 6 factory. That announcement came following discussions with the White House and a conversation between Trump and Terry Gou, Foxconn chairman.
“Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!” Trump tweeted.
The Foxconn statement did not say whether the company’s commitment to the factory would have any effect on the type of workers who are likely to be employed in Wisconsin. Woo had told Reuters earlier this week that about three-quarters of the workers employed in Wisconsin would be in research and development-type jobs, not manufacturing. Woo said the Wisconsin project would be more a research hub than a factory.
A Foxconn spokeswoman had no immediate comment about what its plans to build a “Gen 6” factory would mean for the likely makeup of its workforce. In the main, the difference between a “Gen 10” and “Gen 6” plant is in the size of the original glass that would be used in each to make display screens. The larger plant, which had been part of Foxconn’s initial plans, would have relied on glass more than three-times as large as what the smaller one would use. A “Gen 6” plant can make screens for use in everything from a smart phone to a 75-inch television, whereas a large, “Gen 10” plant could have built screens for devices with dimensions as great as 9½ feet by 11 feet.
Foxconn, the largest electronics company in the world, said on Friday its campus will house both an advanced factory and a center of “technology innovation for the region.”
Local Wisconsin government and economic development officials praised the news, saying the construction of a “Gen 6” factory will coincide with work on related buildings over the next 18 months.
Wisconsin has said it will give Foxconn more than $4 billion worth of state and local tax incentives if the company lives up to its promise to spend $10 billion and create 13,000 jobs in the state.
But Foxconn has repeatedly revised its plans, giving rise to much perplexity and leading critics of the project this week to accuse Foxconn of perpetrating a “bait and switch” scheme.
The original deal calling for a factory was struck by Trump and former Gov. Scott Walker. The new governor, Tony Evers, was a critic of the project during his campaign but has said this week he’s working closely with Foxconn on the project.
Foxconn earlier this week cited a changing global market as the reason why it was planning to move away from making LCD panels in Wisconsin. Apple is Foxconn’s main manufacturing customer and has forecast a drop in revenue from the Chinese market in response to decreasing demand for iPhones.