By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers said on Wednesday it’s “unrealistic” to think that Foxconn Technology Group will employ 13,000 people in Wisconsin as originally promised and that he wants to renegotiate the state’s contract with the global electronics leader.
Evers told reporters that the state was working with the Taiwanese company to look at revising the original contract calling for the construction of a factory to build liquid-crystal-display panels, saying the agreement “deals with a situation that no longer exists.”
President Donald Trump has touted the Foxconn project in Wisconsin as a sign of the return of manufacturing to the United States. It would be Foxconn’s first manufacturing plant outside Asia, but skeptics have questioned the company’s commitment to its initial plans, which were announced more than a year ago.
Under terms of the original deal struck by Evers’ predecessor, Gov. Scott Walker, Foxconn could get more than $4 billion in tax credits if it employed 13,000 people and spent $10 billion in the state.
That deal was roundly criticized by Democrats, including Evers, as being too favorable to Foxconn. The incentive package was the largest of its kind in U.S. history for a foreign company and the biggest ever in Wisconsin.
Foxconn, the world’s largest provider of electronics equipment, has repeatedly insisted that it will meet the original spending and hiring targets, even as the scope of the project has been reduced.
Last month, Foxconn said it would begin construction later this year on a Generation 6 factory, where it would produce small screens for cellphones, tablets, televisions and other devices. That departed from the company’s initial plans, which had called for the construction of a larger Generation 10 plant for the production of screens three-times as large.
Even so, Foxconn was moving forward this week with the first round of bidding out work for the construction of its manufacturing plant. Company officials on Tuesday put out Bid Release 4A for the project, which calls for materials testing, excavation and foundation work and elevator work. Companies that are interested in the jobs can find an invitation to bid at: bit.ly/2VMuRlv.
Evers was asked Wednesday if he still thinks Foxconn will employ 13,000 people in the state.
“I think at this point in time that would be an unrealistic expectation when they’re downsizing the footprint of what they’re doing,” Evers said. “So, 13,000 people as Foxconn employees is probably difficult to imagine for me right now.”
Evers said he didn’t know what a more realistic number would be.
“Less, that’s for sure,” he said.
The reduction in the size of the project means changes must be made to the state’s contract, which was drawn up under the assumption that Foxconn would be building a larger factory, Evers said.
“Clearly the deal that was struck is no longer in play,” Evers said. “It’s our goal to make sure that the taxpayers are protected and environmental standards are protected and we believe that we need to take a look at that contract and see if it needs to be downsized as a result fix it.”
A Foxconn representative had no immediate comment.
Evers also said he didn’t think the Wisconsin project would be affected by Foxconn chairman and CEO Terry Gou’s decision to run for president of Taiwan. Gou negotiated the deal with Wisconsin officials and has been a frequent visitor to the state.