Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn is backpedaling on statements reportedly made by founder and chairman Terry Gou that the company is ready to make a significant investment in a Michigan autonomous vehicle research facility, according to Crain's Detroit Business.
According to the South China Morning Post, Gou said automobile-related development in the U.S. is still ahead of China, making Michigan, Wisconsin and other Midwestern states at the center of the auto industry here prime targets for Foxconn's investment. Michigan is one state in contention for the research facility, but the company is still exploring feasibility of building there.
Gou's statements coincided with a visit to a Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen, China, by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who was leading a nine-day trip to facilitate trade with the country.
After June reports that it was considering a major U.S. investment, Gou announced during a July press conference with President Donald Trump that Foxconn planned to spend $10 billion to build a flat-panel display screen factory in Wisconsin that would generate approximately 3,000 jobs.
Gou's public commitment to build a factory in Wisconsin — for which it will receive about $3 billion in state financial incentives — was followed by similar announcements from other international manufacturers of their own U.S. factory projects.
Austrian particleboard manufacturer Egger last month said it will build a $700 million factory in Davidson County, NC, where it will employ 770 workers upon completion. Egger negotiated for $10.3 million in economic benefits for building the factory, but $5.3 million of that sum will be paid out only if the company creates the number of jobs they've said they will.
Last week, Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda announced plans for a joint investment in the U.S. in the form of a $1.6 billion assembly plant. Company representatives said they haven't pinpointed a location yet, but the proposal is likely to send states clamoring to provide financial incentives in exchange for the expected 4,000 jobs the project will generate.
One of Trump's campaign promises hinged on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., though those jobs seem to be making their way to the country independently. This trend stems in large part from a cycle of American companies outsourcing production to countries like China and Taiwan. That has boosted foreign economies and workers' wages there, raising the standard of living. Over a period of many decades, that has made manufacturing there more expensive, and therefore less attractive.
The Trump administration has also threatened to increase import tariffs as a way to make market conditions more favorable to domestic producers. That, along with the president's rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has increased the likelihood that more foreign companies will build manufacturing facilities in the U.S., particularly if they have significant distribution channels here.