Former President Donald Trump’s proclaimed “the 8th wonder of the world,” looks more like an overstated blunder with news this week that the originally promised massive U.S. display panel and electronics assembly campus in Wisconsin has been scaled back to something much more pedestrian.

Taiwan-based Foxconn reached an agreement this week with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers for yet another revision in plans to the still unfinished plant, after Foxconn said weaker demand for displays now requires the flexibility to use the location for a wider range of products than monitors, TVs and display panels.

The new deal also significantly cuts back the up to $4 billion in tax breaks Foxconn was to garner for building the original agreed to video display manufacturing campus. The originally intended plan and agreement called for the company to invest $10 billion and bring 13,000 new jobs to the area.

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The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. reached an agreement this week with the company for a revised incentive deal that requires Foxconn to invest $672 million in a new facility now intended to create 1,500 jobs. In exchange, Foxconn will receive incentives totaling $80 million, which amounts to less than 3% of the originally negotiated incentive package promised by the state.

Foxconn in 2017 said it was to use the Wisconsin site to produce a 10.5-generation display panel fab and TV assembly facility. At the time, Foxconn chairman Terry Gao seemed to be a willing participant in Trump’s vow to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Wisconsin was a key mid-western state that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election but lost four years later.

Governor Evers, a Democrat, used the much-criticized tax incentive package for the project as a key plank in his successful 2018 campaign, defeating incumbent Scott Walker, who presented himself as a Trump ally.

The original project was hailed for creating 13,000 local jobs, but Foxconn scaled down the scope of its plans several times, citing an incomplete supply chain and a global glut of display panel supply at the time. But a Foxconn 2020 company report mentioned having only “hundreds” of employees in Wisconsin.

Last month Foxconn revealed it is now looking at Wisconsin and Mexico as two possible sites to set up test production and mass manufacturing of electric vehicles.

“I’ve said all along that my goal as governor would be to find an agreement that works for Wisconsin taxpayers while providing the support Foxconn needs to be successful here in our state,” Evers said in a statement Monday.

Before approval of the newly negotiated deal, Foxconn faced losing all of the originally negotiated incentives from Wisconsin because the agreement required investing $10 billion, building high end monitors and employing up to 13,000 employees.

In a statement this week on the renegotiated deal, the company said it “allows Foxconn, like other manufacturers in the state, to earn tax incentives based on job creation and capital investment regardless of the type of products and goods manufactured.” The company said the $672 million investment in the site is still “one of the largest economic development projects on the books” in the state.

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By Greg Tarr

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