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Foxconn may shelve plan to make LCD panels at $10B Wisconsin factory

A report suggests the iPhone supplier changed its plan after negotiations with new Gov. Tony Evers.

President Trump Attends Groundbreaking Of Foxconn Factory In Wisconsin

President Donald Trump (c.) joined Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (2nd from l.) and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou (2nd r.) at the groundbreaking of the company's Wisconsin plant last summer.

Andy Manis / Getty Images

Foxconn may be reconsidering its plans for a massive Wisconsin factory.

The Chinese company said in 2017 that the $10 billion facility would make LCD displays and employ up to 13,000 people -- including a sizable manufacturing workforce.

However, it's reconsidering and may instead stick to hiring mostly engineering and research staff to create a "technology hub," Reuters reported Wednesday, citing Louis Woo, a special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou.

Woo cited the high cost of labor in the US as a factor, noting that it'd be more profitable to make the displays in China and Japan, assemble them in Mexico and import the finished product to the US, according to Reuters.

The plan was scaled back after negotiations with new Gov. Tony Evers, Nikkei reported, citing a Foxconn document. 

Evers, a Democrat, defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker in the November elections. Walker helped woo Foxconn to Wisconsin with the largest incentive in state history, and Evers was critical during his campaign of Walker's dealings with the company.

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Foxconn said it remains committed to the Wisconsin project and the creation of 13,000 jobs, but added that the project's focus will be adjusted to meet the realities of the global market. 

"As our plans are driven by those of our customers, this has necessitated the adjustment of plans for all projects, including Wisconsin," said a representative for the Foxconn Technology Group in an emailed statement. 

"In addition to our consideration of plans to produce traditional products such as television sets, we are also examining ways for Wisconsin's knowledge workers to promote research and development in advanced industrial internet technologies and produce high-tech applications and solutions for industries such as education, medical and healthcare, entertainment and sports, security, and smart cities."

Last summer, President Donald Trump hailed Foxconn's Wisconsin plant as "part of the exciting story playing out across our nation" following his campaign promise to bring manufacturing to the US.

It wouldn't be the first time Foxconn's US ambitions have changed course. In 2013, Foxconn said it planned to invest $30 million in a Pennsylvania factory and create 500 jobs, but The Washington Post noted the plant was never built.

Foxconn is also reportedly changing its plans outside the US. Citing an anonymous source, Nikkei reported Thursday that the company is delaying for at least six months major work on a $9 billion factory in Guangzhou, a city in southern China. Uncertainty created by the trade war between the US and China was a factor in the decision, the source told the publication.

Neither the White House nor Evers' office immediately responded to a request for comment.

First published Jan. 30, 7:22 a.m. PT.
Update, Jan. 31 at 8:10 a.m.: Adds details about Evers and Walker and about the Guangzhou delay.