Publicly, Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn has waffled back and forth between building a factory or not building a factory in rural Wisconsin, but floor plans obtained by The Verge through an open records request may tell us what they're actually building.
Foxconn insists that they're building a "FAB" or fabrication facility that will manufacture LCD displays, but experts who to spoke to The Verge say the foundation they've constructed does not appear to be for a fabrication facility.
Floor plans for the facility tell us that it will be something quite different.
The plans are partially redacted, but according to Willy Shih, a Harvard Business School professor who consulted in the screen industry, the foundations and structural support more closely resemble an assembly facility than an LCD fab.
“If you wanted to build the actual LCD fab, you’d need a lot of steel, and you’d need a deep, deep foundation to support it,” Shih says. His guess is the building would receive LCDs made elsewhere, then attach electronics and assemble them into finished devices. [...]
What the plans do include: a “VR experience room,” a meditation room, a VIP viewing bridge, and various meeting rooms. Additional renderings released by Mount Pleasant earlier this month note that there will be a “Japanese garden,” and provide detailed descriptions of the shrubbery. They do not, however, say anything about LCD manufacturing. Though the documents refer to the building as “The FAB,” all they say about what will happen there is that it “will be used for the manufacture and assembly of a variety of finished products, and office/conference space for workers.”
So, at best, this facility may assemble electronic equipment that was manufactured elsewhere.
At worst, it will just be a glorified hipster office park in the middle of nowhere where rural Wisconsinites are just looking for jobs, not a virtual reality experience or a meditatation room.
All it cost was the low, low price of $4.5 billion in taxpayer dollars that will not be repaid, if ever, for at least 26 years.
The Walker administration estimated that the state would recoup their costs by the year 2045, but those calculations presumed that Foxconn would create 13,000 jobs at the site and that a majority of those jobs would be filled by residents of Wisconsin. And at this point I would not be surprised if fewer than 1,000 people are eventually employed at this location. All it would take is another economic downturn for this gaudy facility to be shuttered entirely if it's even completed.