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Foxconn, Wisconsin leader say project moving ahead

AP, MADISON, Wisconsin

In this June 28, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, center, along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, left, and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou participate in a groundbreaking event for the new Foxconn facility in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.

Photo: AP

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ administration and Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團) on Thursday said that a massive project planned for the state was moving forward, disputing Republicans who blamed the new Democratic governor for a change in direction away from manufacturing to more research jobs.

Foxconn on Wednesday said that it was shifting the focus of the Wisconsin project away from making high-tech flat-panel screens for TVs and other products in favor of a research and development hub.

While the company insisted that it would still employ up to 13,000 people, they would primarily be scientists and developers, not blue-collar assembly line workers as originally promised.

Foxconn — as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, is commonly referred to in the West — has not said whether it would invest US$10 billion in Wisconsin as originally promised.

Local Wisconsin government and economic development officials said that they were assured by Foxconn that figure remained the goal.

Over the past year, Foxconn has repeatedly revised what it plans to do in Wisconsin and the type of workers who will do it.

It cited a changing global market as requiring a move away from making LCD panels in Wisconsin.

Foxconn’s shift away from manufacturing LCD panels led Republican legislative leaders to lay blame on Evers, who had been critical of the project and its potential US$4 billion in taxpayer subsidies in his campaign against then-Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Evers has also proposed capping a manufacturing tax credit program that is not a part of the contract with Foxconn.

Still, Republicans said that Evers’ desire to all-but eliminate that credit was part of an “anti-jobs agenda.”

However, both Foxconn and Mark Hogan — CEO of Wisconsin Economic Development Corp (WEDC), the state’s economic development agency under Walker and Evers — on Thursday disputed the Republican claims.

Hogan also disputed a Nikkei Asian Review report, citing anonymous sources, which said that Evers was attempting to renegotiate side deals with the company.

“I have been involved with the Foxconn project from day one and there never have been any side deals and the contract stands on its own,” Hogan said in a statement. “In addition, there have been no attempts by either the company or the Evers or Walker administrations to renegotiate WEDC’s contract.”

Foxconn issued its own statement, saying: “All interactions to date with Governor Evers and his team have been constructive and we look forward to further discussions” about continuing the project.

Foxconn said that over the next 18 months it plans to build a packaging plant, a molding factory, an assembly facility, a prototyping center, a research and development center, a high-performance data center and a “town center” to support people working on the sprawling campus near Racine.

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