Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Foxconn Continues to Be a Mystery in Wisconsin

Josh Dzieza, the Verge:

I heard many theories about what Foxconn was doing while I was in Wisconsin: that it’s a scheme to get visas for Chinese workers, a plot to acquire intellectual property or to buy up real estate and become a landlord or to get access to Lake Michigan water for mysterious reasons. A nearby farmer who’d been watching the project closely thinks it’s a ploy to get investor visas using commercial bonds and an excuse for Koch Industries to pipe freshwater over the subcontinental divide and for the military to make large screens inside the US, and that the final product will be a city of tax-protected warehouses and assembly facilities for mostly imported goods. “It’s all opaque so it’s nothing but a guessing game,” he told me.

But the most plausible explanation I heard is that Foxconn’s secret is that it has no idea what it’s doing in Wisconsin.

“In China, people announce projects like this all the time, and some of them get built, and some of them don’t,” said Willy Shih, a Harvard business school professor who consulted in the screen industry for several years. They’re called “state visit projects,” he said. Politicians get a photo op, and companies to get some political goodwill, but everyone knows the announcement is extremely preliminary. Ultimately, the company will do whatever makes economic sense, and sometimes, that turns out to be nothing.

Setting aside the politics and sheer lunacy of this project, it’s heartbreaking to see what it’s doing to the communities Foxconn is eroding. Hundreds of residents’ lives have been upturned; fields have been converted into dirt pits. It could all be for nothing.