Three years ago, Wisconsin promised billions in subsidies to a global electronics giant to build what proponents said would be a game-changing tech manufacturing campus.
Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer that built many of the world’s iPhones, would establish a $10 billion factory complex between Milwaukee and Chicago to build LCD screens.
But today, what little construction has taken place sits largely vacant, and according to a new report, the entire project appeared doomed from the start.
Former employees and others involved with the project told the Verge that Foxconn never had a plan for the site in the first place. Foxconn’s strategy, and the managers charged with implementing it, changed frequently as the economic realities of making flat-screen displays in the Upper Midwest set in.
The report describes an array of almost-comic scenes, from the short-lived assembly line put together for a visit by President Trump to workers racing shabby golf carts around a vacant office building.
Foxconn officials floated ways to generate any money from the site — including storing boats and snowmobiles and exporting fish and ice cream to China — while the campus’ main fabrication building was designated for storage rather than manufacturing.
And the company reportedly hired dozens of new employees in late 2018 and 2019 in an attempt to qualify for subsidy payments from the state. The workers described a toxic environment where employees spent their days on their phones questioning the very reality of their jobs.
The ploy, at least last year, did not appear to work. The state has denied the subsidy payments and demanded a renegotiated contract.
Many of the workers that were brought in, the Verge adds, have since been let go.