In 2017, Foxconn, a massive electronics manufacturer based in Taiwan, committed to spending $10 billion to build an LCD manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. Fueled by roughly $3 billion in state tax credits and millions more in state-funded site improvements, the facility was to generate as many as 13,000 jobs, turning tiny Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, into a global high-tech hub.
At the groundbreaking ceremony in 2018, then-President Donald Trump and then-Gov. Scott Walker, both Republicans, sang the praises of Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, with Trump calling him “one of the great men of the world, one of the great business leaders of the world,” while referring to the still theoretical plant as “the eighth wonder of the world.”
“America is open for business more than it has ever been,” Trump said, neatly patting himself on the back for a job well done.
This week, current Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, announced that the state was drastically reducing the scope of the deal — confirming critics’ fears that the agreement was something less than realistic. In the latest iteration, Foxconn has agreed to spend $672 million to build a factory that will employ 1,454 people. The incentive package has been reduced more than thirty-fold, with the state offering about $80 million in tax breaks.
“I made a promise to work with Foxconn to cut a better deal for our state,” Evers said. “The last deal didn’t work for Wisconsin.”
The bottom line: From the start, critics of the Foxconn deal accused the company of promising far more than it could deliver and charged Walker with putting too much public money into a sketchy deal. The renegotiation of the agreement will save Wisconsin residents money, though there’s no way to get back the hundreds of millions of dollars already spent by state and local agencies to prepare the site, or to recover the dozens of buildings torn down, some seized through eminent domain.
“The cleared, prepped site is bigger than Central Park, with nearly 100 homes and small farms bulldozed to make way for Foxconn,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “For now, the site houses a few shell buildings and a nearly complete glass-and-steel dome that can be seen from nearby Interstate 94.”