Foxconn officials said Wednesday they are not changing plans for a display-screen manufacturing campus in southeastern Wisconsin, contradicting a new report by a top Asian news outlet.
The report by Nikkei Asian Review is sourced to industry analysts and others “familiar with the matter.” It says Foxconn “is considering producing small to medium-size displays for Apple, carmakers and others to lower initial costs” at its planned facility near Racine.
That would be a shift from what had been the focus of Foxconn’s previously stated plans for the Wisconsin facility: to make large liquid-crystal display screens for TVs and other applications.
But Foxconn responded to the Nikkei report with a statement saying it is “inaccurate and is not based on any facts.”
“Foxconn can categorically state that our commitment to create 13,000 jobs and to invest US$10 billion to build our state-of-the-art Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park in Wisconsin remains unchanged,” the company said in a statement.
Foxconn added that “our product development and production plans for that campus remain unchanged.” But its statement left open the possibility that the Mount Pleasant campus could make smaller screens in addition to large ones.
It said the company is adopting a “phased approach” to the facility, with a first phase involving the manufacture of panels for televisions as well as “self-driving cars, notebooks and monitors.”
Foxconn plans to break ground on its new manufacturing campus next month.
The company has said its Wisconsin facility will make screens with “8K+5G” technology, referring to a new type of ultra-high-definition screen connected to next-generation wireless Internet technology.
Foxconn’s Wednesday statement reiterated that Wisconn Valley will be “the foundation for the robust AI 8K+5G ecosystem that Foxconn is building in Wisconsin.”
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Foxconn executive Louis Woo told the Racine Journal Times last month that the campus for the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park in Mount Pleasant will include at least four manufacturing facilities. One would make sheets of glass, a second would add components to turn them into liquid-crystal display panels, a third would make frames for the screens and the fourth would assemble all the components into a final product, Woo said. In addition to manufacturing, Woo said the campus will become a hub for electronics research and design.
Tokyo-based Nikkei is the world’s largest financial newspaper. It initially reported that Foxconn planned to cut back its initial investment in the Wisconsin facility, then updated its report to omit that.
Taxpayer contribution about $4.5 billion
Officials with Gov. Scott Walker’s office and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. referred to the Foxconn statement when asked for comment Wednesday. State leaders pledged a $3 billion aid package to Foxconn for the company to come to Wisconsin. Overall, total public costs for the project could reach about $4.5 billion.
If Foxconn reduces the amount spent in Wisconsin on capital investment or creates fewer jobs than planned, it would lower the amount of tax credits the company could claim from the state.
The Nikkei report quotes “supply chain sources” saying “the incomplete local supply chain was a big obstacle to Foxconn’s previous plan to churn out large panels” in Wisconsin. Building them there would require glass-screen suppliers such as Corning to build a facility near Mount Pleasant because “it’s almost impossible to ship fragile, huge-size glass materials from a distant place,” one source told Nikkei.
Corning officials said last month that they would need aid from the state to locate near the Foxconn facility as a supplier. But shortly afterward, state officials responded by saying they would not give any additional aid to Corning or any other glass suppliers for Foxconn.
Democratic legislative leaders said Wednesday that the report is cause for concern. Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, of La Crosse, said, “I have serious concerns that Foxconn’s reputation for abandoning projects and failing to deliver on their promises is coming to fruition.”
Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said the electronics industry is “turbulent.” But he said the company has been “unwavering” in maintaining its commitment to investing $10 billion and employing as many as 13,000 in Wisconsin.
“This is a dynamic industry, but I’m not sure the size of the screens being made here is a huge issue,” Sheehy said.