Foxconn has received roughly $4 billion in subsidies set aside by Wisconsin to build a new plant in the state, but that deal is looking worse and worse with each passing day. According to the Wall Street Journal, Foxconn is looking into transferring workers from China to staff up its plant because the company has struggled to hire enough workers in America. But Foxconn is emphatically denying the report and insists it will find enough workers in the U.S.
“We can categorically state that the assertion that we are recruiting Chinese personnel to staff our Wisconsin project is untrue,” Foxconn Technology Group told Gizmodo over email. “Our recruitment priority remains Wisconsin first and we continue to focus on hiring and training workers from throughout Wisconsin. We will supplement that recruitment from other US locations as required.”
But according to the Wall Street Journal, finding skilled labor in the U.S. is difficult today given the country’s low unemployment numbers. And it’s particularly low in Wisconsin right now, where the unemployment rate sits at just 3 percent, with the nation’s at an incredibly low 3.7 percent.
Taiwan-based Foxconn, best known to the American public as one of Apple’s largest suppliers, initially promised in 2017 to build so-called Generation 10.5 facilities in Wisconsin that produce glass as large as 75 inches for TV screens. But those plans were scaled back and the company is now building a Generation 6 facility that makes glass for smaller phones and tablets. A smaller facility would mean fewer workers, but even if the WSJ report is incorrect about bringing workers from China, it’s still going to be tough to find the roughly 13,000 employees Foxconn needs to make the manufacturing plant operate properly. At least it’s tough to find them in southern Wisconsin.
The facility in southeastern Wisconsin, a 20 million-square-foot campus roughly halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, is still in its earliest stages of building. But President Trump was quick to associate himself with the project, even visiting the site on June 28, 2018 with the Foxconn CEO Terry Gou. The project is widely considered a boondoggle, as the subsidies now look like they’ll cost taxpayers anywhere from $220,000 to as much as $1 million per job generated. And with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker up for reelection today, the project has become a bit of a lightning rod.
And that’s to say nothing of the multiple concerns over the environmental impact of the project. Foxconn reportedly plans to take roughly 7 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan per day for the facility, and according to the New Yorker, Governor Walker secured smog exemptions for the region through the former head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt.
The long and the short of it? Even if Foxconn ends up hiring nothing but American workers, the entire project looks like it’ll be a huge financial drain on the region, and environmentally problematic. But that may as well sum up the entire Trump era—a financial drain and environmentally problematic.