Foxconn Technology Group aims to tap "local talent" in Wisconsin's workforce but also intends to continue embracing automation, a U.S. executive for the company said Wednesday at a business event in Madison.
The executive was Alan Yeung, the director of U.S. strategic initiatives for the Taiwan-based company.
The event, hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, came on the heels of the election loss earlier this month of Gov. Scott Walker, the architect of the $3 billion state subsidy package that brought Foxconn to Wisconsin. The company has started building a display-screen manufacturing and research campus in Mt. Pleasant that it says could employ as many as 13,000.
Yeung did not mention the election, or Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers, in his remarks, focusing instead on the company's plans.
Yeung said Foxconn wants to work with the University of Wisconsin System to create a" resource pool" of local employees, and with the state's manufacturing suppliers to create a local supply chain. He emphasized Foxconn's recent announcement that it will build a center in downtown Racine to develop and implement "smart city" innovations.
"We want to tap into the local talent," Yeung said.
Those comments come after Foxconn disputed reports earlier this month that it plans to bring workers from China to staff its Wisconsin facilities because it has struggled to hire enough U.S. workers.
Speaking Wednesday, Yeung acknowledged Foxconn will continue to view automation as "something we embrace." The company has drawn attention globally for its aggressive efforts to automate its manufacturing operations to reduce labor costs.
Speaking Wednesday, Yeung said much of Foxconn's interest in artificial intelligence technology is about "how we can make things happen automatically."
"For those of you who know Foxconn history, automation is part of our DNA," Yeung said.
In the face of waning demand for smartphones, Foxconn, the biggest assembler of Apple iPhones, also is embarking on sweeping cost reductions in its global operations — something Yeung did not address Wednesday. Bloomberg News recently reported on an internal company memo suggesting that expenses will be cut by almost a half next year.