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Foxconn finally admits its empty Wisconsin ‘innovation centers’ aren’t being developed

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn’s promised Wisconsin “innovation centers,” which are to employ hundreds of people in the state if they ever get built, are officially on hold after spending months empty and unused, as the company focuses on meeting revised deadlines on the LCD factory it promised would now open by next year. The news, reported earlier today by Wisconsin Public Radio, is another inexplicable twist in the nearly two-year train wreck that is Foxconn’s US manufacturing plans.

The company originally promised five so-called innovation centers throughout the state would that employ as many as 100 to 200 people each in high-skilled jobs, with the Milwaukee center promising as many as 500. Those jobs were to complement the more than 13,000 jobs Foxconn said its initial Wisconsin electronics manufacturing factory would bring to the US, in exchange for billions in tax breaks and incentives that Governor Scott Walker granted the company back in 2017.

Yet after purchasing a building in Milwaukee and announcing plans to build the centers in other Wisconsin cities, Foxconn has done virtually nothing with the plans. In April, The Verge reported that the buildings Foxconn had purchased were empty, a report that the company disputed without providing any specific corrections or evidence to the contrary — and the company still hasn’t provided any 194 days later.

According to WPR, Foxconn has installed an HVAC system in one of two buildings it said it would purchase in Eau Claire, but no additional work has been completed. “That’s been about the extent of it, it’s pretty minimal,” Aaron White, Eau Claire’s economic development manager, told WPR. “We did get a visit from four Foxconn staffers and they reinforced their intent to move forward, but they gave no indication of a timeline.”

In Racine, another planned innovation center destination, there does not appear to have been any work done whatsoever. “Foxconn is focusing on the (Mount) Pleasant campus,” Shannon Powell, a spokesman for Racine Mayor Cory Mason, told WPR. “Should an innovation center in the city get up and running there would certainly be a grand opening event.”

Beyond the halted innovation centers, Foxconn’s general Wisconsin plans are similarly in flux. The company announced a partnership in September with an automated coffee kiosk company to help manufacture its product domestically, with plans to add the coffee kiosk to its manufacturing contracts for the planned Mount Pleasant factory.

But the factory doesn’t exist yet. The company is now aiming to open it in 2020 after repeatedly shifting its deadlines. It’s also reduced the planned number of jobs and the size of the factory from the original 13,000 jobs and 20 million square feet to a 1,500-employee, 1-million-square foot facility that will no longer produce the promised big-screen LCD TVs that were part of the initial contract. Earlier this month, the company announced, scrapped, and then re-announced plans to build a giant, nine-story glass orb that would serve as a data center.

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