When Foxconn first announced its plan to open a huge, LCD factory near Racine, the project promised to be one of the biggest deals in Wisconsin history. Foxconn and Wisconsin’s Republican leadership claimed it would create 13,000 jobs and generate billions in revenue. And that was key since the deal also meant that Foxconn would be getting $3 billion in subsidies, making it the largest government handout to a foreign company in U.S. history.
Two years later, little has materialized. Despite claims by Foxconn, the company hasn’t built an LCD factory and what they have created is a building one-twentieth the size of the initial plan. A state report recently revealed by The Verge shows there is no LCD factory and it seems very unlikely there will ever be one on the site where eminent domain forced residents to leave their homes. The few jobs that were created are far less than the thousands promised by this time, and many of those employed aren’t entirely sure what they were hired to do.
"The state really entered into this deal, started building infrastructure, started relocating people — in preparation for a factory that never seemed that likely to appear. And then [the government continued] doing that, even after Foxconn started publicly wavering in its plans," says Josh Dzieza, investigations editor and the feature writer who has been reporting on Foxconn for The Verge.
Dzieza says that his conservative estimate found the state has already spent $400 million on the deal, largely through infrastructure spending to create roads, sewage systems, and other infrastructure needs to accommodate the thousands of employees who were expected to work at Foxconn.
Although Foxconn has constructed some buildings in the area near Racine where the plant was meant to be, Dzieza says none of them are large enough to accommodate the kind of factory Foxconn had promised. It remains unclear how exactly these buildings will be used and Dzieza found through his reporting that the company itself may be unsure of how they intend to use them.
"It is not on its way to becoming an LCD factory, and in fact, a state document that I got through a records request says it is not — by any conventional understanding — it is not a Gen 6 LCD facility. They have not ordered the equipment they would need to make LCDs — it would be the smallest such facility in the world. It says it's more like a display building," Dzieza explains.
Foxconn has continued to waver on its plans in Wisconsin, but it's clear it hasn't followed through with many of its promises. In fact, Dzieza says that from the beginning of the deal, it seems like many of the promises were politically motivated and meant to bolster support for Republican politicians.
"It doesn't seem like anyone involved in this deal at the outset seriously examined the likelihood Foxconn would do what it was promising," says Dzieza. "If you talk to industry experts, they'll tell you that a glut in the LCD industry was foreseeable at the time, that major suppliers would have to co-locate with Foxconn to make this giant factory a reality. There were real red flags at the beginning about the likelihood that Foxconn would build this thing."