Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Building Foxconn City

Mount Pleasant is a town of about 26,000 people in Racine County, halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, an it is developing into one enormous construction site as it prepares to become home to a $10bn (£7.6bn) state-of-the-art flat-panel display factory for Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company best known for making Apple iPhones in ChinaThe unemployment rate is already low in the region, standing at just over 3%. Wisconsin has launched a drive to bring workers to the state, and many are expected to commute from nearby Illinois. Locals – especially vulnerable locals – are unlikely to benefit from the deal. But even after nine years of jobs growth, some people in Racine have been left behind. Ingrained poverty and the poor state of education have failed to help those at the bottom end of the ladder.

Wisconsin offered tax-breaks that could end up costing the state $4.8bn if the project hits all of its targets. It’s the latest giveaway in a series of corporate welfare cheques cut for highly profitable tech companies and the largest to a foreign firm ever in the US.

Governor Walker will have to make good on the promise that Foxconn will help create 13,000 new jobs in the region and transform an area still feeling the cold winds that followed the hollowing out of the US manufacturing industry. Foxconn itself has been more circumspect on the number of jobs it will create, saying in a press release it will “create 3,000 jobs with the potential to grow to 13,000 new jobs”. Even if 13,000 new jobs are created, Wisconsin would be paying $346,153 per job at a subsidy of $4.5bn. An astronomical sum, but nothing compared to the $1.5m per job cost if the deal ends up creating just 3,000 new positions. Nor are the jobs guaranteed. Foxconn made similar promises of huge job creation in Brazil and Pennsylvania that failed to come to pass.

The scale of the Foxconn project is vast. Rural two-lane farm roads will become a six-lane road system with paths for bikes and pedestrians (you don’t see anyone walking here at present). A “smart corridor” is being constructed ready to take robot trucks when they finally become mainstream. The Foxconn site currently has one traffic stop; when it’s finally finished, it will have 12. Approximately 42 miles (68km) of water pipes are being added, alongside 26 miles of gas pipes and 28 miles of telecom wires. When it’s finished the Foxconn campus will occupy approximately 22m square feet (2m sq metres) – more than twice the size of the Pentagon, the world’s largest office complex – making it by far the largest project in the state and one of the largest manufacturing campuses in the world. Conservation groups are furious that Foxconn has been granted access to 7m gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, calling it an “unprecedented betrayal” of the Great Lakes Compact, a 2008 agreement that was intended to preserve the Great Lakes basin, repository of about one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water.Property values have soared in parts of Racine County. The price of multi-family homes has risen 59% as investors have moved in anticipating a boom in rentals and house prices. Some residents face evictions as Foxconn takes their land.


No comments: