Foxconn, the Taiwanese consumer electronics giant, said Friday that it was committed to building a factory in Wisconsin after a conversation between the company’s chairman and President Trump.
In a statement, the company said it “is moving forward with our planned construction of a Gen 6 fab facility,” a type of plant that turns out displays for consumer products.
Foxconn did not say when the conversation between Mr. Trump and Foxconn’s chairman, Terry Gou, had taken place or who had initiated it.
Mr. Trump hailed the announcement Friday in a Twitter post, calling it “great news.”
Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou! https://t.co/2wtuCdl7TX
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 1, 2019
The development followed a tumultuous few days in which Foxconn sent mixed signals about its proposed $10 billion facility in Wisconsin — an investment that Mr. Trump announced in 2017 at a White House event with Mr. Gou.
It was not immediately clear how many manufacturing jobs the company would ultimately create. The project, with a promise of 13,000 jobs, became a focus of political contention in Wisconsin over the $4 billion in tax credits and other inducements that it involved over a 15-year period.
On Wednesday, Louis Woo, the special assistant to Mr. Gou, told Reuters that the company was reconsidering whether it would make advanced TV screens at the site, citing the high cost of making them in the United States.
“In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.,” Mr. Woo told Reuters. “We can’t compete.”
The comments took Wisconsin lawmakers by surprise, and prompted concern among local officials that the company might not devote the facility to large-scale production, after all.
After Mr. Woo’s initial statement, the company insisted that it was not retreating from its plan to build a factory but was re-evaluating what products would be made there. Mr. Woo later told The New York Times that while the company still planned to hire 13,000 workers, he expected that only 25 percent of them would be focused on manufacturing. “The remainder of our work force will be knowledge workers,” he added.
Mr. Woo said that “the global market environment has necessitated a reconsideration of which technology” would be produced in Wisconsin.
The company did not say Friday whether the expected mix of its work force would change after the conversation with the president.
Taking questions from reporters at the State Capitol on Friday, Gov. Tony Evers said he had spoken with Mr. Woo before Friday’s announcement and said it was a reiteration of previous commitments, not a shift.
“Their message hasn’t changed much recently,” said Mr. Evers, a Democrat who took office last month. “But the fact of the matter is, it is different from what the original plan was.”
Foxconn last year committed to building a Generation 6 facility. That plan was itself a step back from its original promise to build a Generation 10.5 plant, producing larger screens.
Asked if he still thought Foxconn’s investment would produce 13,000 jobs, Mr. Evers said, “It’s likely not going to be tomorrow, I’ll tell you that.” The governor said the state would need to “continually monitor the progress and thinking that goes on” and noted that the state incentives were pegged to specific goals that Foxconn would need to achieve.
Republicans who control Wisconsin’s Legislature welcomed the president’s intervention.
“Our state has an ally in the White House,” said a statement from the Assembly’s speaker, Robin Vos, and the Senate’s majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald. “Southeast Wisconsin and the entire state will see an influx of manufacturing jobs and billions in investments.”
But Mr. Woo’s comments to Reuters about the infeasibility of making liquid-crystal display panels have some lawmakers questioning whether the thousands of promised jobs will ever materialize.
“They’re giving us the prospect of making cash payments to a company for the next 15 years for a factory that the company has admitted can’t be competitive in the marketplace,” Assemblyman Gordon Hintz, the Democratic minority leader, said in an interview. “That doesn’t sound like a good taxpayer investment.”
Author: NATALIE KITROEFF