How Wisconsin Got “Foxconned”

It’s been four years since Wisconsin inked a contract with Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn. The year was 2017, President Trump was in office, and then-Governor Scott Walker was running for re-election. After just months of consideration, Walker signed an agreement for Foxconn to come to southern Wisconsin — after all, Wisconsin was “open for business.”

At the time, Foxconn promised to invest $10 billion into a high-tech LCD screen manufacturing facility. They said it could bring 13,000 jobs to the state, the majority of them blue-collar, family-supporting jobs. But four years later, the plan to build LCD screens has not materialized. Foxconn is expressly not producing LCD screens, while weighing what to do with the thousands of the acres of land and new infrastructure built explicitly for them. Meanwhile, homeowners have been evicted from their homes and the State of Wisconsin and Mount Pleasant are now on the hook if Foxconn backs out of the deal.

I sat down with Madison-based journalist Lawrence Tabak, who has been reporting on the Foxconn deal since its beginnings and is out this month with a new book about it. It’s called Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government, released from the University of Chicago Press in November 2021.

We discuss the context of the deal at the time, the flaws of the underlying economic analysis produced by Foxconn analysts, the “blighting” of the land and eviction of Mount Pleasant homeowners (and the unusual clearance granted by the legislature to do so), the future of Wisconn Valley and why Governor Evers renegotiated the deal – plus why the abundance of governmental-sponsored economic development is a bad deal.

Useful links: 

  • Find this post on
  • Visit Lawrence Tabak’s website, and follow him on Twitter here.
  • Find Tabak’s new book from the University of Chicago Press, here.
  • Read more of Tabak’s reporting in Belt Magazine and the American Prospect
  • More listening: Tone Madison interviewed Tabak in 2018; Reply All explored the local politics and evicted homeowners in 2018.