White House touts Foxconn plant in Wisconsin as latest economic win

The Taiwanese manufacturer best known for making Apple’s iPhones in China will invest $10 billion to open a new plant in Wisconsin, the White House announced Wednesday while claiming another win for President Donald Trump’s bid to revive America’s flagging industrial sector.

The move by Foxconn is politically potent for Trump, who has pressed companies to invest in the U.S. heartland after years of jobs migrating overseas. The location also has strategic value: Wisconsin is a swing state that went for Trump in 2016 despite backing Democratic presidential candidates in recent decades.

But it might not come cheap: The deal to lure the company could include a $1 billion to $3 billion package of local, state and federal incentives including tax breaks and infrastructure improvements, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week. Republican Gov. Scott Walker was expected to attend Wednesday’s announcement, along with fellow Wisconsinites House Speaker Paul Ryan and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

While Foxconn’s Chinese factories are widely known as a supplier for iPhones, its Wisconsin plant will produce liquid crystal display monitors for computers, televisions and vehicles. The plant is expected to create 3,000 jobs at the outset, with the potential to reach 13,000 jobs over time, according to a senior White House official who briefed reporters ahead of the announcement.

The official attributed the Foxconn investment to the company’s “confidence” in the Trump administration’s business policies, including its efforts to roll back regulations and enact tax reform. The prospects for a tax overhaul, however, remain unclear as Trump has secured few legislative victories during his first months in office.

The senior White House official said the state’s political leanings weren’t a factor in its selection. The administration facilitated meetings between Foxconn and representatives from several states, and ultimately the company chose “a state in which they could be successful,” the official said.

This is not the first time Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, has looked to expand its U.S. footprint. In 2013, reports indicated the company planned to build a $30 million facility and create 500 jobs in Harrisburg, Pa. Those plans never materialized.

On the campaign trail and since taking office, Trump has publicly rebuked major corporations that manufacture products overseas and then sell them to American consumers. He has threatened to impose a border tax and other financial penalties on firms if they don’t build in America.

To curry favor with Trump, companies including General Motors, Ford and Intel trumpeted their U.S. investment plans in the early days of the administration. Though those plans had already been in the works prior to the election, Trump pointed to many of them as signs of confidence in his policies.

Foxconn maintains deep investment ties to Japan-based Softbank, which earned its own praise from Trump in December when it pledged to invest $50 billion in the U.S. The two companies created a joint investment venture in February, and it’s unclear whether the Wisconsin plant will be funded through that arrangement.

Trump also told The Wall Street Journal this week that Apple had committed to building three “big, big, big” plants in the U.S. Apple declined to comment.

Officials from Foxconn met several times with representatives from the White House’s Office of American Innovation in recent months, the White House official said. That office, spearheaded by Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, has become the administration’s main conduit for engaging technology companies and other industry leaders. The conversations included a previously reported meeting between Trump and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, the official said.


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