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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

But let's wait until the jobs show up before we applaud.

President Donald Trump, America’s big man on campus, was out in Wisconsin on Wednesday to announce that Foxconn – the Taiwanese manufacturing giant that makes your iPhone in China – is opening a plant in the Badger State! And it’ll be somewhere in Paul Ryan’s district, no less.

Let’s go to the tape:

Foxconn’s plant will make flat-panel display screens for TVs and other consumer electronics products. Once it gets going, reported the New York Times, the White House predicted it will create at least 3,000 jobs. That’s good! Are you into it? I’m into it. Nothing to sneeze at.

Foxconn’s chairman, Terry Guo, said the company is gonna drop $10 billion – that’s billion, with a B – on this plant. President Trump weighed in:

“I’d see Terry and say, ‘You’ve got to give us one of these massive places,’” Mr. Trump said. “If I didn’t get elected, he definitely wouldn’t be spending $10 billion.”

Yeah, Mr. President, probably not. But some have pointed out Foxconn makes these kinda promises a lot.

And in that same article quoted above, it’s pointed out that Wisconsin is dropping what’s technically referred to as a friggin’ ton in tax incentives to lure Foxconn in.

But I’m not gonna knock that.

I say: There’s nothing wrong with a state dropping tax breaks on a company to lure investment. That happens all the time, and breaking the cost down, per head, so it fits into a neat little analogy – “at $519 per citizen, it would have been cheaper to buy an iPhone for every man, woman and child in the midwestern state” – is a little too cute.

The Wisconsinite voters who went for Trump don’t want an iPhone, they want the factory and the jobs that come with it.

The more legitimate criticism of the move can be found among all of these investment promises Foxconn has stacked up. Because they don’t always pan out. As the Huffington Post noted:

In 2013, company said it would spend $30 million to build a plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Then-Gov. Tom Corbett (R) personally helped craft the deal and hailed the plan in a statement, saying “Pennsylvania is once again leading the way through integrating technology into manufacturing.”The plant didn’t get built. The next year, Foxconn announced a $1 billion investment in Indonesia. The year after that, $5 billion in India. Though the announcements caused many excited headlines, the ambitious plans never came to fruition, according to a Washington Post investigation published in March.

And now, here’s Foxconn promising a $10 billion investment in Wisconsin. That’s a good first step, but it’ll be legitimately good news if they actually hire people there and start paying them.