Foxconn announces plans to build S$13.6 billion manufacturing plant in Wisconsin

The logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is seen at its headquarters in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
The logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is seen at its headquarters in New Taipei City, Taiwan. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn on Wednesday (July 26) announced plans to build a US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) LCD display panel screen plant in Wisconsin, a deal that President Donald Trump asserted would not have happened without his efforts.

The company said it plans to invest US$10 billion over four years to build a 20-million square foot plant that could eventually employ up to 13,000.

Mr Trump praised Foxconn chairman Terry Gou at a White House event, asserting: "If I didn't get elected, he definitely wouldn't be spending US$10 billion ... This is a great day for America."

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said at the White House that his state will award US$3 billion in incentives and sign a memorandum of understanding on the investment on Thursday.

He told reporters at the White House the state legislature will need to approve the US$3 billion incentives package. About half is for capital costs and nearly half for workforce development. There are also some sales tax exemption incentives.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry , said in a statement that the investment "signifies the start of a series of investments by Foxconn in American manufacturing in the coming years". But Foxconn has had a mixed record following up on promises to create new jobs in the United States.

In 2013, Foxconn said it would invest US$30 million and hire 500 workers for a new factory in Pennsylvania, but that facility was never completed. Foxconn has another small operation in Pennsylvania.

Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple for its iPhones, said last month it plans to invest more than US$10 billion in a display-making factory in the US.

Wisconsin's tax incentives would be awarded over 20 years if Foxconn meets hiring targets, officials said on Wednesday.

Mr Walker said the plant was the largest economic development project in the state's history.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told a Wisconsin TV station that Mr Trump was aboard Marine One over Kenosha, Wisconsin, in April and spotted the site of a former Chrysler plant.

When Foxconn executives met Mr Trump in the Oval Office,"the president said I know a good spot where you should go - that place in Kenosha," Mr Priebus recounted.

Mr Walker said Foxconn is considering several sites in southeast Wisconsin and will announce a final site soon.

Mr Trump has called for companies to build more products in the US and open additional plants. He has made several announcements since his election in November about US investments by both foreign and domestic manufacturers, building on his campaign focus on boosting American jobs. Some of those announcements sought to take credit for previously announced investments.

Wisconsin state Senator Jennifer Shilling, a Democrat, questioned whether there is "legislative appetite for a US$1 (billion) to US$3 billion corporate welfare package... The bottom line is this company has a concerning track record of big announcements with little follow-through".

Chief executive Tai Jeng-wu of Foxconn's Japanese unit Sharp Corp, said in June that six US states were being evaluated for a possible location for a plant to make displays.

The US has added 70,000 manufacturing jobs since November, bringing the total to nearly 12.4 million, but has not added any net factory jobs in the last two months, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Overall, only 8 per cent of US workers are employed in manufacturing, down from 22 per cent in 1970 due to the impact of technological change and the growth of global supply chains.

Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that Apple CEO Tim Cook has committed to build three big manufacturing plants in the US. Apple did not comment.