Foxconn’s Big Decision

Foxconn Technology Group is considering bringing in personnel from China to help staff a large facility under construction in southern Wisconsin as it struggles to find engineers and other workers in one of the tightest labor markets in the U.S. The company, the Taiwanese supplier to Apple Inc., has been trying to tap Chinese engineers through internal transfers to supplement staffing for the Wisconsin plant, according to people familiar with the matter.

The state pledged $3 billion in tax and other “performance-based” incentives to help lure Foxconn, and local authorities added $764 million. Foxconn must meet hiring, wage and investment targets by various dates to receive most of those benefits. The plant was already controversial. Spearheaded by Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin legislature gave Foxconn a rich package of tax breaks and government assistance estimated to be worth more than $4 billion. That package was already a centerpiece in the Republican governor’s election taking place Tuesday.

Walker’s opponent, Democrat Tony Evers, has criticized the package for diverting resources from other state projects, such as road repairs. But with the state already enjoying record low unemployment, it will be difficult to find Wisconsin workers to fill the 13,000 jobs that Foxconn anticipates hiring. Wisconsin unemployment was at 3.0% in September, well below the national average of 3.7% and close to the record low reached earlier this year.

There is also concern that Foxconn will create labor shortages for other established Wisconsin businesses trying to hang onto the employees they have. Foxconn is expected to pay an average of $53,000 for all the workers at the plant.

The company has announced a $100 million gift to the University of Wisconsin’s main campus at Madison in support of its engineering program.


Todd “Bubba” Horwitz