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The will they-won’t they Foxconn saga is leading another news cycle, with company Chairman Terry Gou in the United States to meet with President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, among others.
We learned in late April 2019 that the Taiwanese tech giant wanted changes to its $3 billion contract with the state to better reflect the evolving project.
The original agreement with the state called for Foxconn Technology Group to build a $10 billion manufacturing and research complex and employ up to 13,000 people across Wisconsin. In return they could get up to $4 billion in state and local government incentives.
After meeting with Trump on May 1, 2019, Gou told reporters that Foxconn’s plans in Wisconsin remain unchanged.
"It is not right to say our investment in Wisconsin has changed," Gou told Taiwan media, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review. "We suspended the work around October, November last year because the weather there was snowy and icy cold. We will continue our work in May when the weather gets warmer."
In some ways, that echoed a statement Foxconn provided to the Wall Street Journal on April 29, 2019, in which the company reiterated its job commitments and referenced the preceding winter.
"After the winter break, which has an impact on construction projects of this scale, we are now looking forward to beginning the next phases of construction on the Gen6 advanced manufacturing facility by Summer 2019 with production expected to commence during the fourth quarter of 2020," the company said.
Construction crews aren’t exactly shocked to experience cold weather in Wisconsin during those months. So was the weather really bad enough, as Gou claimed, to cause a two-month shutdown?
We checked it out.
Gou’s claim about snow and cold weather doesn’t really fit with weather data maintained by the National Weather Service.
The Foxconn complex is in the Racine County village of Mount Pleasant.
Records for Racine show it did not snow in October. The average daily temperature was 41.1 degrees for the month, slightly below the norm of 44 degrees. But not exactly "icy."
In November, it did snow on six days. The snow depth never exceeded 2 inches, but, the total November snowfall of 6.7 inches was well above the historic norm of 1.6 inches.
The temperature in November averaged 27.5 degrees, compared to a norm of 33.1 degrees.
"We were actually kind of fortunate throughout October, November, December and even January," said Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council. "It was pretty favorable to get some things done."
The suspended work Gou is referencing isn’t really clear, and Foxconn officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for detail on what was shut down and when.
But work was clearly happening both months.
The company gave reporters a tour of the work site on Oct. 4, 2018, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described the scene as "hundreds of workers on site, a dump truck coming or going every 12 seconds in the middle of the day and a 2- to 3-foot-thick base of aggregate being laid to support a complex of buildings more than a third of a mile long."
The Journal Sentinel was at the work site Oct. 22, 2018 and shot video of work going on beneath sunny skies.
The "Wisconn Valley News" update published by the state on Oct. 26, 2018 said the site was averaging 128 workers and 100 dump trucks a day as crews prepared two large building pads and finalized the first building on the site.
Another "Wisconn Valley News" update on Nov. 23, 2018 said about 100 trucks per day were bringing aggregate to the Foxconn site.
In defending Foxconn’s plans after a White House meeting, Gou claimed the company had suspended work in October and November 2018 because of the "snowy and icy cold."
Foxconn hasn’t provided detail on what Gou is referring to, but there was clearly work going on at the site throughout that timeframe.
And the weather data from those months isn’t consistent with an extreme snowstorm or cold snap that would have caused a multi-month shutdown of a large-scale construction project.
We rate Gou’s claim False.
Nikkei Asian Review, Foxconn's Terry Gou assures Trump that Wisconsin plant is on track, May 2, 2018
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, "Wisconn Valley News," Oct. 26, 2018
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, "Wisconn Valley News," Nov. 23, 2018
National Weather Service, records for Racine, WI, October and November, 2018
YouTube.com, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fresh drone video of the Foxconn construction site, Oct. 22, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Up-close view of Foxconn site shows massive project coming into focus, Oct. 4, 2018
Email exchange with Foxconn Technology Group, May 2, 2019
Interview with Mike Fabishak, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee, May 2, 2019
Interview with Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council, May 2, 2019
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