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Foxconn puts its empty buildings in Wisconsin up for sale

Foxconn puts its empty buildings in Wisconsin up for sale


‘The buildings are not empty,’ the company insisted to reporters.

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The empty Foxconn “innovation center” in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on April 10th, 2020
Image: Matt Jewell

Hey, remember when Foxconn bought a bunch of buildings around Wisconsin just before an election and said it was building “innovation centers” around the state in a transparent attempt to build support for the giant tax credits it was given to build an LCD factory that never arrived? Yeah, it’s selling two of those buildings. The news was first reported by Wisconsin Public Radio, which got a quote from Foxconn saying that “selling its Green Bay property, known as the Watermark building, will add to the vibrancy of the city’s downtown.” Very good.

You might recall two of these buildings, in Eau Claire and Green Bay, because The Verge’s Josh Dzieza went and looked in the windows months after they were purchased and noticed they were empty. This groundbreaking reporting prompted Foxconn’s Alan Yeung to say that the buildings were not empty at an event celebrating the purchase of yet another building in Madison. That building has never been occupied by Foxconn, and two of its floors are now for lease, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal.

“I can assure you that they are not empty,” Yeung said at the time. “We do have a plan and we actually will make sure the building is adequate and well-equipped before we move people in. So you will see a lot more coming in the next months, the next year or so,” he added.

“I can assure you it will not be empty and they’re not empty right now.”

“I can assure you it will not be empty and they’re not empty right now,” he said.

Anyway, we checked in again a year later, and the buildings were still empty.

Foxconn never built an LCD factory or created 13,000 jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, even after getting a sweetheart tax deal from the state and local government and a groundbreaking ceremony featuring then-President Donald Trump wielding a golden shovel. The project has since been scaled down to just 1,454 jobs and a series of announcements about building energy products. But there was a massive water and power buildout on the site, which led to Microsoft’s decision to purchase some of the land for $50 million and put a data center there, which will create just a “few hundred” jobs.

You can read Josh’s award-winning feature about what really happened with the Foxconn project and listen to Alan Yeung try to defend it on Decoder if you wish to be reminded that sometimes, obvious boondoggles are obvious.