Foxconn's Wisconsin 'Factory' Is An Even Bigger Joke Than Everybody Thought
from the words-are-but-wind dept
We’ve been covering for a while how Paul Ryan’s once-heralded Foxconn factory deal in Wisconsin quickly devolved into farce. The state originally promised Taiwan-based Foxconn a $3 billion state subsidy if the company invested $10 billion in a Wisconsin LCD panel plant that created 13,000 jobs. But as the subsidy grew the promised factory began to shrink further and further, to the point where nobody at this point is certain that anything meaningful is going to get built at all.
Last October, reports emerged clearly illustrating the ever-shrinking nature of the deal. They also highlighted how Foxconn was effectively just using nonsense to justify its failure to follow through, showing that while the company hadn’t built much of anything meaningful in the state, it was still routinely promising to deploy a “AI 8K+5G ecosystem” in the state to somehow make everything better. Shockingly, that mish-mash of buzz words is effectively meaningless.
Fast forward to this week, and reporters who’ve been visiting the state to determine the progress of the project continue to find its even lamer than everybody had initially worried. One local politician effectively compares the scandal directly to the Fyre Festival, and the piece is littered with disappointment by locals who say the company is being aggressively secretive and often misleading. Even many of the “innovation hubs”, which Foxconn promised would somehow be better than the ever-shrinking factory it originally proposed, are little more than empty buildings at this juncture:
I walked to the second building in Foxconn?s technology hub, down a street lined with lampposts mounted with speakers playing smooth jazz. At first, the six-story former bank seemed to be farther along. A yellow debris chute snaked out from a top window, and there were hardhats visible in the foyer in front of heavy circular vault doors. But there was also a sign in the window that said the building was for lease. I called the number and asked whether Foxconn was renovating the building, as it announced it would last summer. No, the person on the other end told me. The building never sold.
In short there have been endless promises but little to nothing of substance accomplished, all covered in a cloak of secrecy — which isn’t going over particularly well in Wisconsin. But for its part, Foxconn itself just keeps doubling down on meaningless jargon in the apparent hope that it will satisfy those concerned that taxpayer money may have been wasted on a glorified head fake:
Foxconn is building an AI 8K+5G ecosystem in Wisconsin because the positive impact we envision far surpasses that which can be achieved by building a factory or manufacturing site alone. We are creating Wisconn Valley, which will comprise an ecosystem, or a thriving community, of partner organizations that are intimately linked and interact with each other to develop technological solutions.
Again though, that’s a combination of terms that sounds nifty, but is utterly meaningless (the only thing lacking is a fleeting reference to the blockchain). While Foxconn has convinced a few folks an “AI 8K+5G ecosystem” is a real thing, the general consensus of the piece is that the company bought numerous buildings to use effectively as props to justify its massive handout, but then failed to do anything of substance with the lion’s share of them. Something will come from the massive subsidies being thrown in Foxconn’s general direction, but whether it’s more than glorified set dressing remains an open question.