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Trump's Highly Touted Foxconn Project Falls Short Of Its Promises

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump heads back to the swing state of Wisconsin for a campaign appearance this weekend. But earlier this week, the administration of Wisconsin's Democratic Gov. Tony Evers dealt a blow to one of the president's highly touted projects, a Milwaukee-area factory and research campus being developed by the Taiwan-based electronics firm Foxconn. Chuck Quirmbach of member station WUWM reports.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: The president announced the Foxconn project in 2017. He called it the eighth wonder of the world and said it would eventually bring as many as 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin. But by 2018, Foxconn had reduced the size of the LCD display panels it said it will make at the plant, and current employment is only several hundred. Some buildings are still under construction. On Monday, Wisconsin's economic development agency said Foxconn fell short of its promises. The department's leader, Missy Hughes, said the company would not get the billions of dollars in promised tax credits unless it renegotiated a contract signed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

At a campaign rally Tuesday for Vice President Mike Pence in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, conservative activist Jefferson Davis blasted the state's decision.

JEFFERSON DAVIS: Shame on Gov. Evers. Work with these people. Now you want to renegotiate a deal that was exercised in good faith and trust?

QUIRMBACH: But another Trump and Pence supporter, Pete Jones, who works for a different Wisconsin manufacturer, says he has no problem with the state blocking the credits for Foxconn.

PETE JONES: You're not meeting obligations? By every means, you can cut them off on the incentives. That's perfectly legal.

QUIRMBACH: Wisconsin's Department of Administration says there's nothing political about the timing of the announcement - during a week of Trump campaign visits - or about its intent. Foxconn calls the state's move a surprise that threatens good faith negotiations. The company says it has invested $750 million in Wisconsin.

At a business forum today, Foxconn executive Jay Lee did not comment on the dispute, but he said since COVID-19 hit, Foxconn has been making masks and ventilators in Wisconsin. And he says there's more to come.

JAY LEE: Currently, we're also developing some smart medical system, which we cannot talk too much today, but it will eventually save more lives.

QUIRMBACH: An association of Milwaukee business leaders says it still hopes for an agreement between Foxconn and Wisconsin that is mutually beneficial.

For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEA GIRLS SONG, "DAISY DAISY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.