President Trump's Foxconn Promise, So Far Unfulfilled President Trump heralded Foxconn's plan to build a big plant near Milwaukee, eventually creating 13,000 jobs. But the project has stalled and been downsized and is again in the political crosshairs.
NPR logo

President Trump's Foxconn Promise, So Far Unfulfilled

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/718234407/718735559" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
President Trump's Foxconn Promise, So Far Unfulfilled

President Trump's Foxconn Promise, So Far Unfulfilled

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/718234407/718735559" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump has often touted a huge manufacturing project in Wisconsin, and it isn't working as planned. Taiwan-based Foxconn says it still wants to build video display screens at a plant near Milwaukee. But nearly everyone involved with the plan has more questions than answers. There are reports that Foxconn's chairman is meeting with Trump at the White House to discuss the project. Chuck Quirmbach of member station WUWM in Milwaukee has more.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: It was nearly two years ago when President Trump stood in the East Room of the White House and announced that Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple technology, would build its first U.S. manufacturing facility outside of Milwaukee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's a great day for American workers and manufacturing and for everyone who believes in the concept and the label, made in the USA.

QUIRMBACH: But last summer, the agreement with Foxconn started to unravel. First, the company said it would reduce the size of the LCD display screens it would make. Then Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker, who had enticed the company with up to $3 billion in state tax credits, lost his re-election bid. Then this past winter, another shocker - the company said it might not build a manufacturing plant after all. President Trump hurriedly intervened and within days, says he got Foxconn to recommit to building the facility. But Wisconsin's new Democratic Governor Tony Evers says he doubts Foxconn will ever create the jobs that were promised.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TONY EVERS: I truly believe that they believe that at some point in time, they will have 13,000 employees here. I'm not sure about that. It's a smaller footprint. It's a different type of job. But we'll see.

QUIRMBACH: Evers adds Foxconn now wants to change its agreement with the state. Last week, Foxconn's U.S. director of strategic initiatives, Alan Yeung, tweeted that people should, quote, "calm down about jobs." At an awards ceremony for innovative technology, he stressed that the company is still committed to making Wisconsin a global technology hub.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALAN YEUNG: So I think we need to take a deep breath and say, tax credit is important. But we don't make decisions solely based on tax credits.

QUIRMBACH: Foxconn officials say they're ramping up building the manufacturing plant in Racine County. Here at the edge of the 1,200-acre Foxconn manufacturing property, the farms once on this land are gone. Earth movers, sometimes in groups of three or four, have scraped the ground bare. But Foxconn has put up only one building. Racine County executive Jonathan Delagrave says he's not concerned.

JONATHAN DELAGRAVE: Look. You can see the transformation happening. And it's really, you know, I think, a great thing for us.

QUIRMBACH: But there is uncertainty across Wisconsin, especially among local residents following the recent announcement that Foxconn chairman Terry Gou is scaling back his involvement with the company and running for Taiwan's presidency. Even Wisconsin business leaders who have long-supported Foxconn, like Milwaukee commerce president Tim Sheehy, are now expressing some doubts. He's looking for benchmarks.

TIM SHEEHY: That at some point this summer, the building starts to go up, the capital equipment comes in and the jobs start to flow. Up until that point, I think everybody will be at some point of unease.

QUIRMBACH: It's that unease that now largely defines this ambitious plan. It's not just President Trump's embrace of the project that's at stake but up to $3 billion in tax credits and thousands and thousands of manufacturing jobs. For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.