Saturday, May 4, 2019

Foxconn Struggles to Put Wisconsin First

Preparing for Trump’s speech at Foxconn’s June 2018 groundbreaking in Mount Pleasant. Photographer: Andy Manis/Getty Images

Since the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn announced a plan in 2017 to develop a factory hub south of Milwaukee, it’s promised to take a “Wisconsin First” approach to hiring local suppliers. While that phrase didn’t make it into the final contract, that’s how state officials and Foxconn have touted the deal, which involves about $4 billion in potential subsidies.

The effort is getting off to a slow start, according to a review by Bloomberg Businessweek of Foxconn supply chain and budget documents covering much of 2018. The internal documents, along with financial reports the manufacturer recently filed with the state agency overseeing the partnership, contain discrepancies with previous public statements by Foxconn executives. They provide a look at the early challenges Foxconn has faced in trying to deliver on its promises to the state. And they raise questions about public-investment returns on large-scale government incentive packages. Such incentives have become increasingly controversial as companies from Inc. to General Electric Co. have sought huge state subsidies.

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