Chinese electronics giant Foxconn—best known among tech geeks as the iPhone manufacturer—is looking to move some of its manufacturing stateside. President Trump announced that the Foxconn Technology Group will spend $10 billion to build a plant in Wisconsin, as CEO Terry Gou stood alongside. The company says the new factory will create 3,000 jobs and has the potential to add an additional 10,000 later on. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said at the White House that the state intends to award $3 billion in incentives, a package that has yet to be approved by the state's legislature.
The choice to build in Wisconsin seems to be motivated primarily by the incentives package, but Bloomberg notes that the state's unemployment rate is the lowest since 1999, and that skilled labor in the numbers Foxconn is looking for may be difficult to find there. The site does remark that economists in the state are expecting Foxconn to offer attractive wages and hoping that the company attracts workers from neighboring Illinois—despite consistent reports of extremely low wages at the company's Chinese factories.
While the announcement suggests that the new factory will be a production-line affair, Foxconn said as recently as December 2016 that it has plans to automate as much of its workforce as possible. Peking University economics professor Christopher Balding told CNN Money that it's likely the 3,000 jobs will not "be people on production lines building TVs," but rather "a small number of people watching robots build TVs." The available jobs, he says, are likely to be comprised of skilled and well-paid openings rather than the blue-collar jobs. Balding also noted that the 3,000 jobs figure is "not even a rounding error" when compared to the dimension of one of Foxconn's big Chinese factories, something that seems to point again to automation as an intended direction for the plant.
It should be noted, too, that Foxconn had said in 2013 that it would build a factory in Pennsylania, but in January of this year stated that the announcement was "not a promise, it [was] a wish." The company also replaced 60,000 factory workers in China with robots back in 2016.
Foxconn is the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, so this development has the potential to shake up that arena. The company manufactures not just Apple hardware, but also the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo 3DS. Foxconn counts giants like Amazon and Google among its clients, as well as smaller outfits like Vizio and Acer.
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