Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Foxconn Pledges To Build Manufacturing Plant This Year

Company says it will break ground on one-million-square-foot plant this summer.

By - Mar 18th, 2019 12:24 pm
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After the official groundbreaking ceremony at the Foxconn site in Mount Pleasant on June 28, 2018, work commenced on developing the campus, with the first vertical constructing beginning by September. Photo from Racine County/Village of Mount Pleasant/Racine County Economic Development Corp.

After the official groundbreaking ceremony at the Foxconn site in Mount Pleasant on June 28, 2018, work commenced on developing the campus, with the first vertical constructing beginning by September. Photo from Racine County/Village of Mount Pleasant/Racine County Economic Development Corp.

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn says it will move forward with at least one factory in southern Racine County. In a release, the company said it will break ground on a Gen 6 advanced manufacturing facility this summer. The facility would then begin production of liquid crystal displays (LCD) in the fourth quarter of 2020, the company says.

The company has been dogged by a wave of poor press regarding its Wisconsin project this year. Reuters reported in January that the company would focus on research and development in Mount Pleasant, instead of advanced manufacturing. The Nikkei Asian Review said the whole campus was on hold. A Bloomberg report detailed a series of missteps and broken promises. And the company itself said it wouldn’t be manufacturing LCD displays in Racine.

But after a series of meetings with state officials, including Governor Tony Evers, and a call with President Donald Trump, the company has switched gears and says at least one manufacturing building will be constructed on the 1,200-acre site.

“The initial Gen6 facility will manufacture LCD screens for use in a variety of product applications, including vertical solutions for industries such as education, medical and healthcare, entertainment and sports, security, and smart cities,” said Foxconn in a press release Monday morning.

Sean Ryan of the Milwaukee Business Journal reported the facility will contain approximately one million square feet of space and employ 1,500 people. But both those figures are far short of what Foxconn and then-Governor Scott Walker pledged would happen when the deal was announced in 2017. The company’s press release issued Monday morning does not disclose the size of the facility or number of employees for the factory. A cost is also not revealed.

The company originally was said to be building a $10 billion, 20-million-square-foot campus that would employ up to 13,000 people. The campus, which held a ceremonial groundbreaking in June 2018, was planned to manufacture high-end Gen 10.5 technology, including large screens, but those plans were dropped around the time glass manufacturer Corning was rebuffed in its request for a subsidy to build a plant on site.

Foxconn’s Louis Woo, who serves as special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, said in January: “our plan to create 13,000 high-value jobs has not changed.” But for months now, the company’s statements have dropped the promise to invest $10 billion. Meanwhile, in multiple interviews with a number of media outlets, Woo has stressed that Foxconn is building more than a factory in Wisconsin.

“Our plan is to build an advanced manufacturing campus which will at least include a crystal display backend packaging plant, a high precision molding factory, a system integration assembly facility and a rapid prototyping center to help startups to test out their ideas and concepts to develop new vertical solution using 8K+5G platform/ecosystem,” said Woo to TMJ4 in January.

The incentives package Walker negotiated and signed in 2017 would have Wisconsin state government issue Foxconn approximately $3 billion in refundable tax credits depending on the size of the plant it builds and the number of employees it hires. When all state and local incentives are added up, Wisconsin’s Foxconn package is worth $4.1 billion.

To date the company has acquired a handful of office buildings across the state, including in downtown Milwaukee and Racine. A 120,000-square-foot administration building has also been constructed in southern Racine County on the site cleared and graded for the planned campus. Gilbane Building Co. is leading the project’s general contracting.

Foxconn and Gilbane will be looking for more firms to work on building the manufacturing facility. “In keeping with its ‘Wisconsin First’ commitment, details of the bid packages and information about how contractors can participate will be shared at a series of information sessions, the first of which will be held on April 3 and April 10, 2019. Interested companies are encouraged to sign up at https://foxconn-construction.gilbaneco.com/ to receive information about the upcoming sessions,” announced Foxconn in Monday’s press release.

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