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Foxconn says it will build Wisconsin factory after all, citing conversation with Trump

Foxconn changes focus to research

Madison, Wis.— Foxconn Technology Group will proceed with plans to build a government-subsidized plant in Wisconsin to make liquid crystal display screens after its chairman spoke with President Donald Trump. 

The news capped a week of reversals about the Taiwanese company's plans in the state. Foxconn drew headlines in 2017 when it said the company would invest $10 billion in Wisconsin and hire 13,000 people to build a factory to make screens for televisions and other devices. State leaders offered nearly $4 billion in tax incentives to help seal the deal.  

Last year Foxconn said it would reduce the scale of the factory from what is known as a "Gen 10" factory to "Gen 6". But this week, Foxconn executive Louis Woo seemed to move away from a factory altogether, saying the company couldn't compete in the TV screen market and would not be making LCD panels in Wisconsin.

On Friday, in yet another twist, Foxconn said that, after discussions with the White House and a personal conversation between Mr. Trump and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, it will proceed with the smaller manufacturing facility.

Trump tweeted that the development was "great news."

Woo told Reuters earlier this week that about three-quarters of workers in Wisconsin would be in research and development, not manufacturing, and that the facility would be more of a research hub.

A Foxconn spokeswoman had no immediate comment about what its plans to build the "Gen 6" factory would mean for the makeup of the workforce. 

The difference between a  Gen 10 and Gen 6 plant has to do with the size of the original glass used to make screens. The larger plant, which had been part of Foxconn's initial plans, would have used glass more than three-times as large as what the smaller facility will use. The Gen 6 plant can make screens ranging in size from a smart-phone to a 75-inch television, while the larger plant would have allowed for devices as large as 9.5 feet by 11 feet.

Foxconn, the world's largest electronics company, said Friday the campus would house both an advanced manufacturing facility and a center of "technology innovation for the region."

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

Wisconsin residents fear Foxconn plant could push them out

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's repeated changes to its plans led 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 Mr. Trump. Wisconsin's current governor, Democrat Tony Evers, was a critic of the project during the campaign but has 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 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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