Wisconsin’s $4.1 billion Foxconn boondoggle

It was supposed to be a big win for the state of Wisconsin: Foxconn was going to build a massive LCD factory in the state, raking in a massive state subsidy. Fast-forward a few years, and little seems to have come of the deal.

But what seemed so simple on a napkin has turned out to be far more complicated and messy in real life. As the size of the subsidy has steadily increased to a jaw-dropping $4.1 billion, Foxconn has repeatedly changed what it plans to do, raising doubts about the number of jobs it will create. Instead of the promised Generation 10.5 plant, Foxconn now says it will build a much smaller Gen 6 plant, which would require one-third of the promised investment, although the company insists it will eventually hit the $10 billion investment target. And instead of a factory of workers building panels for 75-inch TVs, Foxconn executives now say the goal is to build “ecosystem” of buzzwords called “AI 8K+5G” with most of the manufacturing done by robots.

Polls now show most Wisconsin voters don’t believe the subsidy will pay off for taxpayers, and Walker didn’t even mention the deal in a November 2017 speech announcing his run for re-election. He now trails in that re-election bid against a less-than-electric Democratic candidate, the bland state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers.

It all seemed so promising. So how did everything go so bad so quickly?

The jobs supposedly created through this deal would cost the state government over 300,000 dollar per job – which is an absolutely terrible investment. In order to get there, Foxconn received special exemptions from environmental rules and regulations, raising concerns about pollution.

Also, but unrelated, boondoggle is a great word.


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