In brief: Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn will start production at its controversial Wisconsin facility in May 2020, with a workforce of 1,500, or 320 jobs short of what it needs to secure $4 billion in financial incentives. The company already missed its 2018 deadline, and there are reasons to believe it will also miss its current one.
When Foxconn chose Wisconsin as the location for its $10 billion manufacturing plant, it also overpromised to bring 13,000 jobs to the area. Then it proceeded to hype it up, saying that it would use it to manufacture liquid crystal displays that will be in high demand for building consumer products like smartphones and TVs.
County officials offered the company several financial incentives to bring that dream to reality, under the premise that it would also attract some of its suppliers and create even more jobs.
In a recent interview with CNBC, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers said the facility will start production in May next year, but with only 1,500 jobs, a far cry from the initial plan. Described by Trump as “the eighth wonder of the world,” the place’s “innovation centers” are still empty, even as Foxconn has promised to hire 1,800 people by the end of 2020 – a necessary target that will allow it to access an additional $4 billion in incentives.
The governor said Foxconn is still committed to hire those 13,000 people, with an understanding that it would go at it in small steps. The Taiwanese electronics maker, however, admitted to downscaling its ambitions to build large displays and will instead focus on smartphone and tablets, blaming leading glass manufacturer Corning for its unwillingness to move to Wisconsin.
To put things in perspective, the company has yet to explain exactly how it will deliver on its long-term goals. Last June, Foxconn said it would create “at least 200 high-tech jobs” for an “AI 8K+5G ecosystem,” a buzzword that remains a nebulous as far as what it actually means and what job roles it would require.
It’s also worth noting that as disappointing as it sounds, the announcement is just the tip of the iceberg. Foxconn’s Wisconsin factory has raised concerns surrounding its environmental impact on Lake Michigan, and the company’s leadership is changing, which adds even more uncertainty for the future of the project.