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Foxconn's Wisconsin Plans Shrunk From Factories To Coworking To Storage

Foxconn senior adviser Chris Murdock, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, President Donald Trump, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and former Rep. Paul Ryan at Foxconn's WIsconsin groundbreaking in June 2018.

It didn't take long for doubts to emerge when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker promised $4B in incentives for Foxconn to build a giant, tech-forward factory complex.

Less than two years after the Taiwanese technology company broke ground on what it initially claimed would be a 20M SF manufacturing complex, the plans had changed to a smaller, more "knowledge-focused" hub for tech jobs and Walker had been voted out of office. But neither of those plans ever had enough detail to be carried out, and the largest facility that has actually been built at the site changed its official usage from manufacturing to storage in September, The Verge reports.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou promised President Donald Trump a project that would produce 13,000 jobs making LCD screens and televisions, but by the end of 2019 the company had only hired 281 workers — less than the 520 required in the tax incentive agreement with Wisconsin, let alone the 2,080 it had initially promised, The Verge reports. Foxconn was on track at that time to spend less than 10% of its promised $6B investment by the end of 2020.

Even now, Foxconn has not publicly abandoned plans to build something on the swaths of land that were bulldozed in the small town of Mount Pleasant in order to make way for the promised job-creation engine. What has been built already includes a 120K SF building deemed a "multipurpose" facility, which The Verge reports produced a limited number of LCD screens on a manufacturing line built ahead of the 2018 groundbreaking ceremony attended by Trump and dismantled soon after.

A 1M SF building, touted as the centerpiece of Foxconn's project and named "The Fab," sits empty and was reclassified as a storage facility in planning documents in September. A Foxconn subsidiary named Fii took over the project in 2019 and has since built a 260K SF manufacturing facility for server parts estimated to require 300 to 500 workers.

As part of its 2018 pivot away from its grand manufacturing plans, Foxconn purchased office buildings in several cities across Wisconsin, promising to fill them with "innovation centers" targeting young talent graduating from college. The buildings have either sat empty since or never kicked out previous office occupants to begin with, The Verge reports. 

Though Foxconn's U.S. strategic director Alan Yeung billed the innovation centers as sources for ideas to push the Mount Pleasant site into the future, internally the offices were part of a plan to emulate WeWork with a coworking project called Blaze, The Verge reports. No internal construction to convert the buildings to such a use were ever started.

CORRECTION, OCT. 20, 3 P.M. ET: A previous version of this article misstated Foxconn's home country. This article has been updated.