Foxconn says empty buildings in Wisconsin are not empty
Well, here we are again.
Earlier this week, The Verge published a lengthy investigation into the many “innovation centers” Foxconn has announced in Wisconsin as part of its deal with President Trump to build a (status unknown) LCD manufacturing plant in the state. After spending 10 days on the ground, we simply reported the obvious: most of the “innovation centers” are empty, some of the buildings were never actually purchased, and no one in Wisconsin really seems to know what’s going on.
Today, Foxconn responded to that piece by… announcing another innovation center in Wisconsin, this one in Madison, the state’s capital. The building, which currently houses a bank, actually sits directly across the street from the Capitol building, and it will continue to house the bank because Foxconn did not announce when it would be moving in.
Here are some other things Foxconn did not announce: how much it had paid for the building, how many floors of the building it would occupy, how many people would work there, or what those people would be doing.
It did announce that it would be rebranding the building “Foxconn Place Madison,” however.
Anyway, here’s the big quote from Foxconn’s Alan Yeung in a good piece in the Wisconsin State Journal about the deal:
Yeung assured those in attendance at Monona Terrace that the Madison building will not be empty, eliciting nervous laughter from the crowd.
The announcement comes days after a news story published by The Verge raised questions on the progress of other “innovation centers” scattered across the state, finding some centers had stalled or contracts pulled.
Yeung said the article had “a lot of inaccuracies,” the the buildings are not empty and that the company would issue a correction soon. He discouraged people, such as reporters, from “climbing trees” to determine building occupancy.
”We do have a plan and we actually will make sure the building is adequate and well-equipped before we move people in,” he said.
And more from Yeung, as reported in the Journal Sentinel:
“I appreciate you worrying about these empty buildings… I can assure you they are not empty… We don’t actually make an effort to acquire buildings to leave them empty. We do have a plan…
”So you will see a lot more coming in the next months, the next year or so,” Yeung said. “I can assure you it will not be empty and they’re not empty right now.”
So, first things first: no one climbed any trees to report on Foxconn’s innovation centers. Our reporter, Josh Dzieza, simply looked in the window and saw this:
Photo by Joshua Dzieza / The Verge
If that photo is inaccurate and that building is not, in fact, empty, Foxconn had ample opportunities to tell us because we repeatedly asked for comment, and Foxconn declined. Foxconn also declined to offer us anyone to interview. So if Foxconn wants to tell us what these inaccuracies are, they have our contact info, and we’re willing to listen.
More importantly, Foxconn has steadfastly refused to tell anyone in the world what its promised “AI 8K+5G ecosystem” is, which would be good to know, in general, as the state of Wisconsin has already spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on infrastructure, kicked people out of their homes, and earmarked up to $4.5 billion in tax breaks against building it. So, you know, anytime.
Foxconn did not respond to a request for comment.
Update March 14th, 4:32 PM ET: Now with more comments from Alan Yeung.