Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn wants to reopen negotiations with Wisconsin officials over its heavily subsidized, troubled plans to build a massive facility in the state, CNBC reported on Tuesday, though the exact nature of what is up for discussion is not clear.
According to CNBC, the “disclosure comes in a letter from [Democratic Governor Tony Evers] to Foxconn executive Louis Woo, a special assistant to Chairman Terry Gou and the company’s point person on the project.” The letter itself states that it’s not Evers—who criticized the project, which was negotiated under Republican predecessor Scott Walker and heavily promoted by Donald Trump, as a “lousy deal” on the campaign trail—or the state that is seeking to alter the terms. Rather, it claims that Foxconn broached the topic in March 2019.
Foxconn scored over $4 billion in local and state tax credits and other incentives to build what it originally said would be a 20 million square foot, Gen 10.5 facility making large TV screens, which would create 13,000 new jobs. But it’s seemed hesitant to move forward with the project, which has stumbled, to say the least. Earlier this year, Foxconn briefly stated they wouldn’t be building a factory at all; they backtracked, but over the lifetime of the project it has scaled down its plans to a Gen 6 facility making smaller screens for phones.
Numerous projects announced in the state appear to have stalled out—the Verge recently reported that some Foxconn-run projects appear to be empty or understaffed, while other buildings were never actually purchased, and there did not seem to be any plan for making good on promised investments. Meanwhile, the Verge wrote, “Taxpayers have already spent more than $300 million on roadwork, infrastructure, and land acquisition related to the project.”
The grounds for the plant core to the deal have remained somewhat of a ghost town, with little activity beyond landscaping and some last-stage assembly work reported. Republicans have continually accused Evers of tanking the deal by trying to have it renegotiated, but the letter says it was Foxconn that first brought up its desire to change the terms of the deal with state officials in March.
Evers did call for the agreement to be revised last week, saying the 13,000 jobs figure “would be an unreal expectation when they’re downsizing the footprint of what they’re doing.” However, the Verge wrote that up until Tuesday, both Foxconn and state officials were insisting everything was just peachy:
“Foxconn remains committed to our contract,” the company said on Friday as it recommitted to opening an LCD plant. “We have a solid contract,” Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) CEO Mark Hogan assured reporters earlier today, according to The Associated Press.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Hogan has insisted that the deal is “scalable” and a “solid contract,” since the amount of tax credits fluctuates with the number of people Foxconn actually ends up employing. He added that “there’s no need to renegotiate the contract” if the Gen 6 plant is built.