Business

Foxconn hiring plans for Wisconsin plant under scrutiny

Posted November 6, 2018 3:55 p.m. EST

— Foxconn denies a report that it plans to bring in workers from China to staff a plant in Wisconsin that's been mired in controversy since it was announced.

The Taiwan-based electronics company said its priority is hiring workers from Wisconsin and other parts of the United States.

"We can categorically state that the assertion that we are recruiting Chinese personnel to staff our Wisconsin project is untrue," said Foxconn's statement. "Our recruitment priority remains Wisconsin first and we continue to focus on hiring and training workers from throughout Wisconsin. We will supplement that recruitment from other US locations as required."

A Wall Street Journal article published Tuesday reported that the company is having trouble finding the engineers it will need at the plant, and that it is trying to get staff at some of its plants in China to move.

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.

Foxconn is best known for the massive factories in China that build Apple (AAPL) iPhones and Amazon (AMZN) Kindles and Echo Dots.

The Wisconsin plant will build flat screens. When it was announced in 2017 Walker promised it would help to create a Silicon Valley of good paying tech jobs in Wisconsin.

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. Labor Department figures shows Wisconsin unemployment 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.