But nearly four years later, the complex that promised to create a Silicon Valley in the industrial Midwest is essentially a white elephant, a collection of mostly empty buildings without any high-tech products to build.
And this week it became official: The pledged investment of up to $10 billion to create as many as 13,000 jobs is not coming.
“When I ran to be governor, I made a promise to work with Foxconn to cut a better deal for our state,” Gov. Tony Evers said on Tuesday. “The last deal didn’t work for Wisconsin, and that doesn’t work for me.”
Evers, a Democrat, made opposition to the lucrative package one of the main issues of the 2018 campaign in which he defeated incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican and ally of President Trump.
The new deal is actually an improvement for Foxconn, which had risked getting nothing in state incentives after it dropped plans to build flat screens to be used in televisions and other products.
The company said in a statement that it was grateful that the new deal “allows Foxconn, like other manufacturers in the state, to earn tax incentives based on job creation and capital investment regardless of the type of products and goods manufactured.” Foxconn said its $672 million capital pledge still makes it “one of the largest economic development projects on the books” in the state.
“Conservatively, it was over $200,000 per job,” said Tim Bartik, senior economist at the WE Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a nonpartisan think tank that studied the original deal. “Typically for a new company, incentives are close to $50,000 per job. This new package is close to that.”
During the early days of the pandemic, Foxconn made face masks and ventilators at the Wisconsin plant. But the company hasn’t revealed how much of its 1.4 million square feet, spread across three buildings, is now being used. It says its plans are based on “current projections for digital infrastructure hardware products through 2025,” but did not provide any specifics about those products. The company says it currently has “several hundred” employees at the property.
Foxconn kept insisting it would hire all the planned workers, but kept changing the plan for what they would be doing.
Finally last fall the WEDC voted that Foxconn was ineligible to receive the earlier incentive package, citing the fact that the company no longer planned to build the promised flat screens. That decision paved the way for renewed negotiations and led to the new slimmed down agreement.