Last April, The Verge reported that the Foxconn “innovation centers” scattered around Wisconsin were largely empty and that renovations were stalled. Several days after that article published, Foxconn held a press conference to announce that it had bought yet another building and told reporters that The Verge’s reporting was incorrect.
Specifically, Foxconn’s Alan Yeung said The Verge’s story had “a lot of inaccuracies, and we will actually make a correction, and we will make a statement about that.”
“I can assure you that they are not empty,” Yeung said. “But we also don’t want people to climb up on trees and look over to make sure we have occupancy.” (For the record: no one ever climbed on trees. We simply looked in the window.)
Yeung went on. “We don’t actually make an effort to acquire buildings to leave them empty. We do have a plan and we actually will make sure the building is adequate and well-equipped before we move people in,” he said. ”So you will see a lot more coming in the next months, the next year or so,” Yeung said.
“I can assure you it will not be empty and they’re not empty right now,” he added.
“They’re not empty right now” was a curious way to describe buildings that looked like this in April 2019:
Yeung made those comments on April 12th, 2019. It is now April 12th, 2020, making it exactly one year since Foxconn promised a statement or correction regarding The Verge’s report of empty buildings in Wisconsin. That statement or correction has never arrived.
And the buildings are still empty.
Here’s another photo of Foxconn’s innovation center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, taken this past Friday:
Foxconn originally promised to turn two buildings in Eau Claire into office space and research facilities. It never purchased one of the buildings and has taken out no substantive building permits for the other, the glass-fronted downtown building pictured above.
Matt Jewell, an engineering professor at the nearby University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, from which Foxconn was supposed to recruit, said there has been “no visible activity whatsoever” at the property. Foxconn was also absent at the school’s career fair this February.
The Green Bay innovation center has also made no progress. In October 2019, WPR reported that the projects appeared to be on hold. Several days later, Foxconn said it still planned to develop the innovation centers, and the company appeared to restart at least some of the projects, selecting contractors to renovate a floor of its Green Bay building. At the time, the company said it planned to renovate 4,800 square feet of office space to host company events and recruitment drives. It had originally planned to have 200 employees working in a 16,000-square-foot space.
According to Kevin Vonck, the development director for Green Bay, Foxconn submitted plans toward the end of 2019 for an even smaller space: 3,500 square feet of office space for 49 people. But no permits have been taken out, and construction has yet to begin.
“I have not heard anything from the Foxconn team recently,” said Wendy Townsend, project manager at the Green Bay Department of Community and Economic Development. “They tend to be on the quieter side.”
A search of records for Foxconn’s property in Madison turned up no building permits, and other tenants of the building have not seen any Foxconn employees.