February 1, 2019 / 7:30 PM / 17 days ago

UPDATE 2-Foxconn vows to build Wisconsin plant after talk with Trump

(Adds meeting with Wisconsin governor and quotes from governor; adds background)

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Foxconn Technology said on Friday it will build a factory in Wisconsin after the company's chairman spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump, following a Reuters report earlier this week that the Taiwanese company was reconsidering its plans.

Reuters reported that Foxconn was reconsidering making liquid crystal display panels at a planned $10 billion Wisconsin campus and intended to hire mostly engineers and researchers there. But after conversations between Trump and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, the company said it would move "forward with our planned construction of a Gen 6 fab facility," which is a type of plant that produces displays.

The 20-million-square-foot campus marked the largest investment for a brand new location by a foreign-based company in U.S. history when it was announced at a White House ceremony in 2017. It was praised by Trump as proof of his ability to revive American manufacturing. The apparent reversal was seized upon by Democrats in Congress this week.

Trump tweeted on Friday: "Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!"

Heavily criticized in some quarters, the Foxconn project was championed by Wisconsin's then governor, Scott Walker, a Republican who helped secure around $4 billion in tax breaks and other incentives before leaving office. Critics called the deal a corporate giveaway that would never result in the promised manufacturing jobs and said it posed serious environmental risks.

Foxconn initially planned to manufacture advanced large-screen displays for TVs and other consumer and professional products at the facility, which is under construction. It later said it would build smaller Generation 6 LCD screens instead.

In comments published on Wednesday, Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn's Gou, told Reuters those plans might be scaled back or even shelved, citing the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the United States, where labor expenses are comparatively high.

After the Reuters report, Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple Inc, issued a statement confirming the global market environment that existed when the project was first announced had changed and “necessitated the adjustment of plans for all projects, including Wisconsin."

By Friday the company shifted again. The "campus will serve both as an advanced manufacturing facility as well as a hub of high technology innovation for the region," Foxconn said in a statement. The statement did not reiterate its commitment to create 13,000 jobs as it did on Wednesday.

Woo spoke with Wisconsin's new Democratic governor, Tony Evers, a past critic of the deal, on Friday, Evers told reporters. The governor's office said on Wednesday Evers' team had been "surprised" by Woo's comments on changing plans.

“From what I heard today... it looks like they’re going to focus on the generation 6 technology," Evers said. “They made commitments and we’re going to make sure they live up to them.” (Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Karen Pierog in Chicago; editing by Leslie Adler)

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