Foxconn Considering A $7 Billion Flat Panel Factory In The United States

Image courtesy of Matt Wakeman

Foxconn may not be a household name, but the odds are pretty good that you’re reading this post on a device that the company made or assembled under contract for companies like Acer, Dell, and Apple. The Taiwanese company does most of its manufacturing in mainland China, but is considering building a $7 billion factory somewhere in the United States.

The Finalists

Specifically, Foxconn has narrowed its search to Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Wisconsin. The Wall Street Journal reports that Wisconsin is the winner, with the company planning an event to announce it as soon as the coming week.

The plant would make very large LCD panels, which are costly to ship over from Asia. (Foxconn acquired the display maker Sharp last year.) The question for the company, though, is what kind of tax and other incentives each state could put together to lure the plant there. Manufacturing the panels in the U.S. needs to be cheaper than making them in Asia and shipping them over.

A Foxconn plant would bring at least 5,000 jobs, and the seven states each have their own programs of corporate tax incentives for large-scale job creators. Foxconn would also need cheap land and power.

The pitfalls of single-employer towns

The Janesville, WI, Gazette mused that while thousands of jobs coming to town would be pretty great, it also has its own pitfalls, like housing shortages and a region coming to depend on a single employer in a volatile industry. Janesville was formerly home to a General Motors plant, and has since diversified its economy.

First and second runners-up

The Associated Press reports that Foxconn will announce the site for the LCD panel plant as well as two smaller facilities in two other states, the purpose of which hasn’t yet been made public.

Most of the negotiations have been secret, but we do know that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, whose district is in Wisconsin, has said that he met with company representatives. The AP also notes that President Donald Trump mentioned the possibility during a trip to Wisconsin, telling the crowd that “we were negotiating with a major, major incredible manufacturer of phones and computers and televisions and I think they’re going to give [Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker] a very happy surprise very soon.”

That would be some good news for the governor and for the state, indeed. A factory that hired a minimum of 5,000 people would offset last year’s job losses in manufacturing in that state. For 2016, Wisconsin was down 3,776 manufacturing jobs, despite tax incentives, even as the state added 11,590 private-sector jobs overall.

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