Electronics giant Foxconn reversed course and announced Wednesday that the massive Wisconsin operation that was supposed to bring a bounty of blue-collar manufacturing jobs back to the Midwest—and was offered billions of dollars in incentives from the state—will instead be devoted mostly to research and development, the AP reports. The much-ballyhooed facility was heralded by President Trump and former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a once-in-a-generation opportunity. In a statement Wednesday, Foxconn—a major supplier to Apple,the world's largest contract maker of electronics, and China's largest private employer—said it remains committed to the project, the creation of 13,000 jobs and "to our long-term investment in Wisconsin." But because the global market environment that existed when the project was first announced in 2017 has shifted, "this has necessitated the adjustment of plans for all projects, including Wisconsin."
Foxconn previously said it could invest as much as $10 billion in the project. It did not recommit to that number in its statement Wednesday, but Wisconsin leaders said Foxconn leaders had pledged to spend that much. Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, told Reuters that it's scaling back and possibly shelving plans to build liquid crystal display panel screens in Wisconsin. "In terms of TV, we have no place in the US," Woo told Reuters. "We can't compete." Woo said a factory would not be built in Wisconsin: "You can't use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment." Instead, Woo said Foxconn wants to create a "technology hub" that would largely consist of research facilities along with packaging and assembly operations. Woo said about three-quarters of the jobs created will be in research and development and design, rather than blue-collar manufacturing jobs. (Click for reactions to the news, including what Walker had to say.)