Racine County’s top stories of 2020 — No. 7: Slowdown of activity at Foxconn – Journal Times

26December 2020

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In 2018, Foxconn was Racine County’s No. 1 story of the year as voted by The Journal Times’ newsroom. In 2019, Foxconn didn’t even crack the top 10. This year, it came in at No. 7, not so much for what has happened but for the lack thereof, and for what might still be coming.

Unforeseen circumstances, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic that ground Foxconn production in China to a halt for months, have been blamed for this year’s slow visible progress surrounding development in Mount Pleasant. But the groundwork for this year’s slowdown in Foxconn progress can be traced back years.

For one, 2020 was the first full year of Foxconn that Wisconsin was no longer under the leadership of the governor who brokered the deal, with Gov. Tony Evers having taken over from Scott Walker in January 2019. Although Evers has maintained that the state is happy to continue working with Foxconn, the Democrat has been notably more skeptical of the Taiwanese tech giant than his Republican predecessor.

In February, the new CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Missy Hughes, said she would steer away from splashy but pricey Foxconn-type deals.

Regardless, under the Evers administration, the WEDC — the state’s agency for economic development strategizing — has been playing hardball with Foxconn. In October, WEDC said that Foxconn doesn’t have a chance of getting the billions in tax credits expected without updating its contract with the state. Foxconn responded by appealing that decision and attesting it never promised to build an LCD factory, despite that being included in the original contract.

But this month, the two sides were reportedly getting closer to locking in a new contract.

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That doesn’t mean Racine County isn’t feeling an impact from what President Donald Trump said would be “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” Racine County led southeastern Wisconsin in property value growth over the past year, with Mount Pleasant leading the way — largely because of Foxconn and surrounding development.

It’s not as if construction has halted along Wisconn Valley Way. In January, the company announced that its first major nearly 1-million-square-foot building — a Gen 6 building, down from the originally planned Gen 10.5 plant — had its roof on and had become “weathertight.”

And the Foxconn Industrial Internet (Fii) Smart Manufacturing Center — i.e. “The Globe,” a structure emblematic of Foxconn’s appearance of shifting plans away from manufacturing hardware to a focus on data — was topped off in September.

In November, it was reported that Foxconn may produce servers for Google in Mount Pleasant, but the company has neither confirmed nor denied it.

Mount Pleasant’s Foxconn project manager, Claude Lois, told City of Racine officials that Foxconn’s planning here is largely “on hold” until the pandemic is over and things are “going back to normal.”

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