Friday, July 31, 2020

What's going on at Foxconn in Wisconsin? A job survey provides some clues -- and may affect whether the company gets tax credits

From JSOnline:

Ricardo Torres
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A survey of dozens of Foxconn Technology Group employees sheds some light on the day-to-day activities of the company in Wisconsin, but few details about the long-awaited production of display panels.
The surveys came as part of a recent audit conducted by Deloitte. Responses from 76 workers covered which Foxconn subsidiaries hired the workers, when was their first day with the company, their job title and description, what projects are they working on, how much work do they do in Wisconsin, and what work have they done outside the state. 
Most employees surveyed work for AFE Inc., a Foxconn subsidiary, and more than half of those surveyed said they work in Mount Pleasant where the company is building a massive complex.
The company has said the complex will include the country’s first liquid crystal display panel factory.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained a copy of the audit from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. through a public records request.
The audit will be used by the agency as it determines whether Foxconn hired enough people in 2019 to qualify for millions of dollars in state tax credits. Foxconn has promised to spend $10 billion on a manufacturing complex and create up to 13,000 jobs in exchange for up to $3 billion in public money over 15 years.
The firm missed out on jobs incentive payments for 2018, falling 82 jobs short of the 260 minimum requirement. It will need 520 jobs by the end of this year to get any payments for 2019, and 1,820 next year to receive payments for 2020.
Foxconn has said it will open the display panel plant by the fourth quarter of this year. The company has not said how many people are working in Mount Pleasant, but the audit gives some clues as to what some workers there and elsewhere are doing.
Jobs included security, data and software engineers, legal counsel and someone who works in “TV assembly.

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Redactions were made to protect employee identities. Three survey responses had other information blacked out by WEDC.
Employees were asked “using general terms and without disclosing confidential information or trade secret, describe the primary project you are working on.”
One employee listed what appears to be the names of four projects, but three of them were blacked out. The fourth project was listed as "Medtronic."
Foxconn has partnered with Medtronic to make ventilators at its facility in Mount Pleasant. The company also has said it is making masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  
Foxconn has bought buildings in Racine and Green Bay for “innovation centers” where little has been done since the announcement. Those properties have a site development project manager, working out of Milwaukee offices, for FEWI Development Corp., who says they are leading the design, build out and continued management of the “Foxconn properties plan.” 
According to the site development project manager’s survey response, Foxconn is working on a build out of its property in downtown Racine, which is planned to cost more than $600,000. 
The person also is working on “mediation of park structure” for a building in Green Bay, capital improvements and repairs at the property in Green Bay and a different property in Racine, along with “leasing spaces in multiple properties.”  
Since breaking ground in 2017, the only products to come out of the Mount Pleasant facility has been masks, of which the company donated 100,000 to the state to combat the pandemic.  
Foxconn activities could be more tied to the pandemic than just masks and ventilators.  
One employee who self-identified as a “senior manager for special projects” regarding the ventilator project and other health related projects, said this of the primary project they are currently working on: 
“Help Racine community to open up economy.”

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There were a few employees whose answers may create a concern when it comes to the job counting for state subsidies. 
One employee stated they worked for the Foxconn Industrial Internet (Fii), which the state contends is not part of the agreement for tax credits.  
Another employee, who lives in Illinois and works for FEWI Development Corp., stated they don’t do any work in Wisconsin and their job includes facilitating air import/export shipments, along with pickups.  
The administration of Gov. Tony Evers has said the contract between the state and Foxconn may need to be revised because the company has shifted the type of work it plans to do in Mount Pleasant away from a heavy emphasis on production

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