‘The Foxconn factory that fizzled’ 

By: - December 8, 2020 9:37 am
workers assemble iphones at a Foxconn factory

El nuevo iPhone 7 ya ha comenzado su producción en Foxconn. Photo by iphonedigital via Flickr. (Production has begun on the new iPhone 7 at Foxconn.) May 2016 CC BY 2.0

Sean McFarlane’s family were relocated into a dilapidated, mold-filled apartment with no working toilets after he, his girlfriend and four children were booted from his lifelong home in the Village of Mount Pleasant. When he returned to the site recently, he was shocked.

In that location — where there was supposed to be a booming Foxconn factory that Scott Walker, Donald Trump and state Republicans promoted as a game changer for Wisconsin jobs and manufacturing — was a retention pond inhabited by flocks of geese. 

“Three years later, the factory for which the family went through hell hasn’t been built,” reports The Guardian. “Sitting in his wheelchair on an empty sidewalk in November, McFarlane sighed in disbelief as he scanned the vast patchwork of mud, open fields, ponds and a few underutilized buildings comprising the 3,000-acre Foxconn site. ‘They demolished my house for this? A bunch of geese that sit on a hill? It’s upsetting. That’s where my old house was, and now it’s just nothing. You know? Nothing.’”

To clear the land for a Foxconn plant that President Donald Trump promised was going to be the “eighth wonder of the world,” McFarlane was relocated by the village to a broken down house with no working toilets or heat, three feet of water in the basement, mold, vandalism and doors too narrow for his wheelchair. And, according to The Guardian’s report — he said he has not been given a promised relocation payment of $22,000 by the village that forced him out.

The promised high-tech hub that Walker dubbed “Wisconn Valley” with 13,000 jobs and $10 billion in private investments has not materialized. And the McFarlanes are not the only family cited by The Guardian as paying the price. The village has also built infrastructure to support the yet-to-materialize Wisconn Valley, and has debts nearing $1 billion to fund property acquisition and infrastructure.

The Guardian was among outlets that reported over the past several years and as far back as 2012 on the sweatshop conditions at the Chinese Longhua factory, among others, where Foxconn makes iPhones. Working conditions were so difficult that management hung suicide nets from its buildings to prevent workers from taking their own lives.


Gov. Tony Evers has said Foxconn has not met the requirements to receive the billions in state aid promised by Walker — 40% of which it may never receive. The former governor and Trump, who promoted the deal, have both been voted out of office.. 

“Though Trump and the former Republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker declared with the 2017 Foxconn announcement that they had revived a critical upper midwest swing state’s manufacturing sector, the project is now viewed as a loss for Republicans,” writes Guardian reporter Tom Perkins. “Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense that Mount Pleasant residents’ lives were upended for what was little more than elaborate political theater designed to score a phony public relations win for Trump and Walker.”

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.