Fox­conn se­lects U.S. site for plant

Up to 13,000 jobs set for Wis­con­sin

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - SCOTT BAUER AND PAUL WISEMAN

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Wed­nes­day that elec­tron­ics gi­ant Fox­conn will build a $10 bil­lion fac­tory in Wis­con­sin that’s ex­pected to cre­ate 3,000 jobs ini­tially.

The an­nounce­ment comes at a crit­i­cal junc­ture for a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that pledged to gen­er­ate man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs but has strug­gled to de­liver re­sults as quickly as the pres­i­dent promised. Trump’s plans for health care and tax cuts face an un­cer­tain fu­ture in Congress, and his ad­min­is­tra­tion is bogged down by an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s pos­si­ble ties with his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The fac­tory will pro­duce liq­uid-crys­tal dis­play pan­els that are used in tele­vi­sions and com­puter screens, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior White House of­fi­cial who in­sisted on anonymity to dis­cuss the an­nounce­ment. Fox­conn will lo­cate its plant in the con­gres­sional district of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan al­though the of­fi­cial de­clined to pro­vide a spe­cific lo­ca­tion.

Fox­conn could even­tu­ally em­ploy 13,000 work­ers at the fac­tory, the of­fi­cial said. This would mark a sub­stan­tial gain for a state that cur­rently has 472,000 man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs and is still re­cov­er­ing from fac­tory lay­offs — in­clud­ing the clo­sure of a Gen­eral Mo­tors plant in Ryan’s home­town — that hit af­ter the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Tai­wan-based Fox­conn is per­haps best known for as­sem­bling Ap­ple iPhones in China.

The of­fi­cial said the White House was closely in­volved in Fox­conn’s de­ci­sion to lo­cate a fac­tory in the United States and that the pres­i­dent had met per­son-

ally with Fox­conn Chair­man Terry Gou.

Seven states had com­peted for the Fox­conn plant. The ad­min­is­tra­tion said it did not help steer Fox­conn to Wis­con­sin in what would ap­pear to be a vic­tory for both Trump and the state’s Repub­li­can gover­nor, Scott Walker, who is up for re­elec­tion next year.

Fox­conn did not im­me­di­ately re­turn mes­sages seek­ing com­ment Wed­nes­day. Other states vy­ing for the plant were Michi­gan, Illi­nois, In­di­ana, Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia and Texas.

Repub­li­can lead­ers in the Wis­con­sin Se­nate have said Walker had been ne­go­ti­at­ing a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Fox­conn to build such

a fac­tory in south­east Wis­con­sin.

Wis­con­sin is of­fer­ing $3 bil­lion in eco­nomic in­cen­tives over 15 years if Fox­conn in­vests $10 bil­lion in the state and cre­ates 13,000 jobs at a planned dis­play-panel fac­tory.

The in­cen­tives would only be awarded if Fox­conn cre­ates the jobs and pays an av­er­age yearly wage of nearly $54,000.

Walker’s of­fice dis­trib­uted de­tails Wed­nes­day about the planned project, which he called the largest eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in­vest­ment in the his­tory of Wis­con­sin.

Land­ing the mul­ti­state com­pe­ti­tion had been cast as a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity. Fox­conn is the big­gest con­tract as­sem­bler of smart­phones and other de­vices for Ap­ple and other brands. It has

been eye­ing build­ing the plant in a part of Wis­con­sin rep­re­sented by Ryan, who said he has met with com­pany of­fi­cials at his re­quest.

Crit­ics have cau­tioned that Fox­conn has made prom­ises be­fore to in­vest in the U.S. and not fol­lowed through. Fox­conn promised in 2013, for ex­am­ple, to in­vest $30 mil­lion and hire 500 work­ers for a new, high­tech fac­tory in Penn­syl­va­nia that was never built.

State Sen. Al­berta Dar­ling, co-chair­man of the Wis­con­sin Leg­is­la­ture’s Bud­get Com­mit­tee, said any in­cen­tive deal would be ex­am­ined with a “fine-toothed comb” and need to win ap­proval by the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture.

The Kenosha area is an at­trac­tive lo­ca­tion for a large plant be­cause of its prox­im­ity to Lake Michi­gan and its

abun­dant wa­ter sup­ply. To make flat-panel dis­plays, the com­pany will need ac­cess to great quan­ti­ties of wa­ter to keep work spa­ces dust-free, among other things.

The news sent a jolt of ex­cite­ment across Wis­con­sin, even among long­time Demo­cratic crit­ics of Walker.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity,” said Demo­cratic state Assem­bly Mi­nor­ity Leader Peter Barca. He also met with Fox­conn ex­ec­u­tives and said Walker’s ad­min­is­tra­tion told him the deal could lead to 10,000 or more jobs.

Barca, like many Democrats, voiced con­cern about how much tax­pay­ers may have to con­trib­ute in tax breaks and other in­cen­tives.

“We want to make sure it’s a fair deal for ev­ery­body,” he said. “We want a win-win-win.”

AP file photo

Fox­conn pro­duc­tion line em­ploy­ees work in a fac­tory in the south­ern Chi­nese city of Shen­zhen in 2010. Plans for Fox­conn to build a $10 bil­lion fac­tory in Wis­con­sin were an­nounced Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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