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Foxconn says it's proceeding with Wisconsin plant after Trump intervenes

Foxconn says it's proceeding with Wisconsin plant after Trump intervenes
President Trump tours a Foxconn facility in Mount Pleasant, Wis., with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou on June 28, 2018. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

Foxconn Technology Group said Friday that after its chairman spoke directly with President Trump the Taiwanese company will proceed with plans to construct a plant in Wisconsin that will make liquid-crystal display screens.

The news capped a week of confusion about Foxconn's plans in Wisconsin. The company announced in 2017, to much fanfare, that it planned to invest $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.

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The company last year said it was reducing the scale of what was to be made in Wisconsin, from what is known as a Gen 10 factory to Gen 6 making screens for small electronic devices. But this week, even that was thrown into question when 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 on Friday, in yet another twist, Foxconn said that after discussions with the White House and a personal conversation between Trump and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, it plans to proceed with the smaller manufacturing facility.

“Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!” Trump tweeted.

The Foxconn statement did not say whether the commitment to the smaller Gen 6 factory would affect the type of workers who would be employed in Wisconsin. Woo told Reuters earlier this week that about three-quarters of workers in Wisconsin would be in research-and-development-type jobs, not manufacturing. Woo said the Wisconsin project would be more of a research hub, rather than having a manufacturing focus.

The Gen 6 plant can make screens ranging in size from a smartphone to a 75-inch television, while the larger plant would have allowed for devices as large as 9 feet by 11 feet.

Foxconn, the world's largest electronics company, said Friday that its existing Wisconsin campus will be expanded to house both an advanced manufacturing facility and a center of “technology innovation for the region.”

Local Wisconsin government and economic development officials praised the news, saying construction of the Gen 6 factory will coincide with construction of other related buildings over the next 18 months.

Wisconsin promised nearly $4 billion in state and local tax incentives to Foxconn if it invested $10 billion and created 13,000 jobs for the project, which Trump heralded last year as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

But Foxconn has repeatedly revised its plans for what will be made in Wisconsin and who will work there, causing confusion in the state and leading critics of the project this week to accuse Foxconn of a “bait and switch.”

The original deal was struck by then-Gov. Scott Walker and Trump, and drew criticism over the size of the incentives. Wisconsin's current governor, Democrat Tony Evers, was a critic during the campaign but said this week he's working closely with Foxconn on the project.

Foxconn earlier this week cited a changing global market as requiring a move away from making LCD panels in Wisconsin. Apple Inc. is Foxconn's main manufacturing customer and it has forecast a drop in revenue from the Chinese market due to decreasing demand for iPhones.

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