They Promised 13K Jobs. Then Came the 'Screams'

How Foxconn built a 'state visit project' in Wisconsin
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2020 4:30 PM CST
What Happened With That Big Wisconsin Project
In this Thursday, June 28, 2018, file photo, President Trump takes a tour of Foxconn with Foxconn chairman Terry Gou in Mt. Pleasant, Wis.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Trump called it "the eighth wonder of the world." Foxconn's project in Wisconsin came with the glittering promise of a $10 billion investment, a huge LCD-screen factory, and 13,000 jobs—but two years later it looks like a bust, the Verge reports. The company, a Taiwanese tech giant, never produced LCDs and struggled to find a focus. Among its ideas: exporting ice cream, building fish farms, and erecting a smart city with self-driving golf carts. Only 281 people were hired by the end of 2019, many with nothing to do. "The best is when you're in the elevator with somebody and then they just scream out of nowhere," said an employee. "They've had enough, because things don't make sense here." Meanwhile, local and state governments invested at least $400 million as dozens of homes were razed to clear space for Foxconn.

Behind it all was Foxconn founder Terry Gou, who had launched similar projects before. Common in China, "state visit projects" are designed to drum up political goodwill, give politicians a photo op, and maybe turn into something. Trump did get a photo op at the 2018 groundbreaking ceremony in Wisconsin. He also prodded Gou into renewing the LCD plan when it was being scrapped over high US labor costs a few months later. "Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!" Trump tweeted. The factory hasn't appeared, but Foxconn did establish a small manufacturing line for servers before Trump's 2020 campaign paid a visit. Foxconn built "one of the most incredible plants I've ever seen," Trump told a Wisconsin TV station. "They will do what I tell them to do." (Read the full story here.)

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