James Rowen
Op Ed

Foxconn’s Crystal Ball Looks Fuzzy

Company’s smaller footprint has business proponent Tim Sheehy lowering expectations.

By - Jul 5th, 2019 12:40 pm
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On June 28, 2018, the first Wisconsin Foxconn employee C.P. "Tank" Murdoch, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, President Donald Trump, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan conducted the ceremonial groundbreaking at the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant. Photo from The White House.

On June 28, 2018, the first Wisconsin Foxconn employee C.P. “Tank” Murdoch, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, President Donald Trump, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan conducted the ceremonial groundbreaking at the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant. Photo from The White House.

Foxconn’s liquid crystal display (LCD) products are supposed to create crystal clear flat-screen TV images, but the company can’t seem to get past old, low-tech crystal balls.

While the company has several times downplayed and downsized its heavily-subsidized, sprawl-inducing Mt. Pleasant project, we now have a new, caveat-laden lowered expectation from key project backer Tim Sheehy, President of the Foxconn-boosting Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce:

Sheehy argues that even if the project stopped where it is now, 1,500 jobs are nothing to sneeze at, and that no one is out any money…

Asked if the smaller footprint bodes poorly for ever seeing the grandiose plans Foxconn promised, Sheehy suggested he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I think it makes it more challenging to see a future of 13,000 jobs,” he conceded.  “But I don’t have a good enough crystal ball to say that’s not happening.”

By the way, the 1,500 jobs number is a company 2020 prediction, down from an earlier estimate of 5,000, according to Chicago’s TV station NBC 5.

This month, the company broke ground on what it says will be a facility with a million square feet, with 1,500 people on the job by the end of 2020. But the agreement they signed with the state promised more than 5,000 jobs by that same deadline.

Look at it this way: You’re promised a once-in-a-lifetime, most-amazing-ever, ten-course meal. Then the wait staff tells you all you’re getting are chips and dip.

And actually that’s an insufficient metaphor, because people were forced off their land and out of their homes so Foxconn could do something on the site, Walker could play Big Man in [failed] partisan news conferences and campaign ads, and President Trump could play his Bigger-Man, Foxconn card in the trade war gamble he started with China.

And speaking of bad metaphors, Foxconn itself has said it doesn’t have a crystal ball that can predict when promised jobs will materialize, so Sheehy might want to come up with a more-reassuring line:

[Foxconn’s US strategic director] Alan Yeung‘s tweet from Wednesday [April 24] was in response to an article reporting on Gov. Tony Evers saying he didn’t think Foxconn would employ 13,000 people…Yeung tweeted “calm down” in response to the Evers story.

Yeung says, “Who has the crystal ball to predict if 13,000 jobs will be created by the year 2032?”

At this point, its clear the answer is no one.

James Rowen, a former journalist and mayoral staffer in Milwaukee and Madison, writes a regular blog, The Political Environment.

More about the Foxconn Facility

Categories: Business, Op-Ed

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