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More than nine months after President Donald Trump helped Foxconn break ground on its would-be $10 billion plant in Wisconsin, little progress can be seen, a new report says.
The Verge, in a report published Wednesday, found that even locals are unsure of Foxconn's plans. Construction seems largely stalled despite the electronics company's recent promise that its new factory would begin assembling liquid crystal display screens by the end of 2020.
In a trip to Wisconsin last month, The Verge found that while Foxconn had taken out renovation permits on several sites that would contribute to what it calls its "AI 8K+5G ecosystem," people with knowledge said those working on the project don't have contracts and have not been paid.
One building that was meant to be part of Foxconn's technology hub never sold, according to The Verge, after the owner became fed up with Foxconn's constant changes of plans. The owner said he'd held off on converting a floor of the building into apartments after Foxconn expressed interest, but once the company tried to negotiate $500,000 off the contract after going back and forth several times on whether it would need the floor, the owner terminated the contract, according to The Verge.
In a statement, a Foxconn Technology Group said, "Foxconn's plans to build the Gen6 advanced manufacturing facility at the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park (WVSTP) are on track as scheduled. Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded. Construction is expected to begin by Summer 2019 and we expect production to commence in Q4 2020."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since Trump attended the groundbreaking of the Mount Pleasant site in late June 2018, the project has seemingly been in flux amid trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The project was considered an important piece of Trump's reelection bid, since it was meant to fulfill a campaign promise of bringing back jobs to the U.S. Taiwan-based Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple, and the Wisconsin plant would be Foxconn's first facility outside of Asia.
In late January, an assistant to Foxconn's CEO told Reuters it was still evaluating the types of jobs it would create at the Wisconsin site, saying it wanted to create a "technology hub" rather than a factory. This was a sharp deviation from the type of facility and jobs locals and political leaders believed Foxconn would create. Rather than mainly blue-collar jobs, the assistant told Reuters, about three-quarters of the jobs would be "knowledge" positions in R&D and design.
The day after the Reuters report, Foxconn released a statement affirming it was still moving forward with construction in Wisconsin after talks with the White House but did not clarify the types of jobs it would create.
The number of jobs Foxconn is promising to create in the state has also declined over time. The company initially said it would create 13,000 jobs in the state but later said its hiring pace had slowed. A source told Reuters in January that Foxconn will likely hire about 1,000 people by the end of 2020, rather than the 5,200 it initially expected to employ by that time.
Read the full report at The Verge.