By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Foxconn Technology Group is moving forward with its plan to build a factory in Wisconsin and President Donald Trump has promised to visit when production starts next year, the top official at the Taiwanese company told reporters following a meeting at the White House.
Foxconn CEO Terry Gou met with Trump on Wednesday to discuss the company’s ever-changing Wisconsin project. Gou then flew on Thursday to Wisconsin, where he met in private for the first time with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a critic of the plan.
Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics company whose customers include Apple, Amazon and Google, plans to build a display screen factory in southeast Wisconsin. Foxconn reached the deal with former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Evers was critical of the taxpayer credits promised to the company during his successful campaign against Walker last year.
Evers told reporters on Thursday he planned to tell Gou he looked forward to making sure the Wisconsin project was successful. But Evers said there was no question the project was going to be smaller than originally planned, given that Foxconn has said publicly it’s building a factory that will make display screens that are smaller than those called for by the existing contract.
After Foxconn waffled earlier this year on its intentions, Gou recommitted to the company’s Wisconsin project in February following a meeting with Trump. Gou said that during their meeting Wednesday, the president promised to coming to Wisconsin in May 2020 to see the start of production, according to Kyodo News.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Trump has been a vocal backer of the project, proclaiming it the “eighth wonder of the world.” He visited Wisconsin last summer for the groundbreaking and has heralded the development as a sign of resurgence in American manufacturing.
But skeptics question whether Foxconn will fulfill its commitments, noting other promises it has made around the world only to go on to fail to deliver on them. Last year, for instance, Foxconn fell short of its job targets to qualify for tax credits in Wisconsin and has downsized the type of factory it intends to build.
Evers, a Democrat, has said Foxconn wants to make changes to its contract with the state, which has promised to make more than $4 billion available in state and local tax credits if Foxconn spends about $9 billion and hires 13,000 people.
Evers has said the contract may be changed to reflect Foxconn’s plan to build a smaller factory. Evers also said he doesn’t think Foxconn will hire as many people as it projected, even though the company has repeatedly committed to the 13,000 number.
Evers was joined at the meeting with Gou by the state’s chief economic development official who brokered the original Foxconn deal. Neither Foxconn nor Evers had immediate comment following the meeting.
Gou told reporters after his meeting with Trump that the company remained committed to Wisconsin.
“It is not right to say our investment in Wisconsin has changed,” Gou said in a video broadcast by Taiwan media as reported by Nikkei Asian Review. “We suspended the work around October, November last year because the weather there was snowy and icy cold. We will continue our work in May when the weather gets warmer.”
Preliminary data from the National Weather Service show the average high in Racine County, where the project is being built, was 54 degrees in October and 39 degrees in November. The average low was 41 in October and 27 in November. There was no snowfall in October and 6.7 inches in November.
Foxconn had little to say about Gou’s meeting with Trump, commenting only that they “discussed the latest updates and the positive progress” of the project, among other things. One of the other items discussed, according to Kyodo News, was Gou’s plans announced last month to run for president of Taiwan.
Gou, Taiwan’s richest man, told Trump that if he’s elected, he intends to be a “peace maker” rather than a “trouble maker,” Kyodo News reported. Gou also told Trump that he would commit himself to advancing peace and stability and improving Taiwan’s economy. Gou told Trump that he wanted to strengthen economic ties between Taiwan and the United States and make their economic relations a top priority.