President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on February 1, 2019
Photo: AP

Well, we don’t know what to believe anymore. Is Foxconn actually building a factory in Wisconsin? The answer seems to be changing every day.

Foxconn, most famous for manufacturing Apple’s iPhone, released a new statement today saying that after a discussion with President Donald Trump, it would be building a factory after all. But it plans to build a so-called Gen 6 facility that makes small phone screens rather than the original plan for a Gen 10 facility that builds large TV screens.

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What did President Trump say to change Foxconn’s mind? What did the president potentially give up to make Foxconn reverse course? We don’t know at this point. Foxconn did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment. But given President Trump’s long history of questionable deals, we fully expect to learn that he gave up his first born.

(Update, 3:37pm ET: Foxconn just got back to us but declined to answer any of our specific questions about the call with Trump.)

Both Foxconn and Republicans in Wisconsin were criticized in the press this week after the company announced on Wednesday that it was massively scaling back its plans for a manufacturing campus in Wisconsin. Former Governor Scott Walker was instrumental in bringing the company to Wisconsin and President Trump even flew to the state last year to break ground on the Mt. Pleasant site with the company’s CEO Terry Gou. Walker was defeated by a Democrat in the 2018 election and many people blame the Foxconn boondoggle.

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The Taiwan-based tech company originally received a commitment of $4 billion in subsidies and infrastructure spending from the state when the deal was announced in 2017. And in return, Foxconn was going to build an enormous campus, complete with a factory that would provide thousands of manufacturing jobs. Foxconn even promised 13,000 jobs in total, but on Wednesday, Foxconn announced that it wasn’t going to be building a factory after all, just a campus that housed researchers and engineers.

It wasn’t clear then, and it’s still not clear how many jobs Foxconn hopes to create in Wisconsin. And frankly, the company probably doesn’t know at this point. But the local city of Racine now says that they could break ground on the factory within 18 months, according to a report in the Milwaukee Business Journal. It’s a funny thing to say, of course, since President Trump was supposedly at the “groundbreaking” last year.

Today’s statement from Foxconn, which was released to outlets like the Milwaukee Business Journal and CNBC:

After productive discussions between the White House and the company, and after a personal conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Terry Gou, Foxconn is moving forward with our planned construction of a Gen 6 fab facility, which will be at the heart of the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park. This campus will serve both as an advanced manufacturing facility as well as a hub of high technology innovation for the region.

Our decision is also based on a recent comprehensive and systematic evaluation to help determine the best fit for our Wisconsin project among TFT technologies. We have undertaken the evaluation while simultaneously seeking to broaden our investment across Wisconsin far beyond our original plans to ensure the company, our workforce, the local community, and the state of Wisconsin will be positioned for long-term success.

We look forward to continuing to expand our investment in American talent in Wisconsin and the US.

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What happens now? Your guess is as good as anybody’s, really. But maybe don’t get too excited just yet. Foxconn appears to have deleted a concept video for its campus on YouTube. Given all the controversy around Foxconn in the past, Gizmodo downloaded the video figuring that this might happen. You can watch the video here and here.

Needless to say, we haven’t heard Foxconn recently talk about those self-driving cars you can see in the video. But Foxconn has a history of over-promising and under-performing as Wisconsin state representative Gordon Hintz told Gizmodo earlier this week.

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But with or without this new factory, Hintz’s comments on the political posturing of Foxconn’s deal still rings true.

“They located the facility in a swing state for Donald Trump and in Paul Ryan’s home district. Foxconnn all along for them it was, I think, about maintaining favorable trade relationships,” Hintz said.

[Milwaukee Business Journal and CNBC]

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