Former Foxconn exec Yeung says Ohio would have been better for Gen 10.5 plant

Alan Yeung
Alan Yeung

Last updated on April 20th, 2022 at 02:22 pm

Former Foxconn executive Alan Yeung says it would have made more sense for Foxconn to pick Ohio for the Generation 10.5 LCD plant it initially planned to build in Mount Pleasant.

“I would just bring out a very simple but interesting fact that if staff support and input were taken into account, the Gen 10.5 fab would have gone to Ohio,” Yeung said on The Verge’s Decoder podcast.

“Ohio is a lot closer to the Eastern seaboard and end-use market, and the logistics would have worked a lot better,” Yeung added. “Given what we see in hindsight with the business environment, Ohio’s investment climate — unlike Wisconsin — has only gotten better, not worse.”

He emphasized that Ohio was a better fit for the Gen. 10.5 plant in particular and said “once we made the commitment to build the fab in Wisconsin, there was no looking back.”

Yeung appeared on the podcast following the publication of his book “Flying Eagle,” which shares details and perspectives on Foxconn’s site selection process. He was one of the most visible Foxconn leaders involved in the Wisconsin project as director of U.S. strategic initiatives. He left Foxconn this month, according to his LinkedIn page, and is now a professor of practice for entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The site selection process culminated in 2017 with Foxconn picking Wisconsin for a planned $10 billion investment. The company said it would build a Gen. 10.5 LCD plant, the kind intended to make the largest screen sizes, and create 13,000 jobs.

Those plans never materialized for a variety of reasons – the market for large screens faced oversupply issues and glass maker Corning said it would require additional subsidies to build a required plant next to Foxconn’s facilities.

Ultimately, Foxconn pivoted to planning a Gen. 6 LCD plant that would provide more flexibility in screen size.

“So later on, when we pivot back to, ‘Hey, let’s go back to what you want at Wisconsin,’ the (Gov. Scott) Walker administration actually would have supported that, but unfortunately, we did not get there with the next administration,” Yeung said on the podcast.

The company eventually pivoted again to a plan to make server products and other items at the facility.

Pressed by Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of Decoder, on what exactly Foxconn is making in Mount Pleasant, Yeung declined to share specifics.

“Foxconn and chairman (Terry) Gou believe that publicity is not helpful in terms of the customers because they do not want you to share client confidentiality. Publicity is not helpful in terms of competition because we were actually telegraphing to our competitors,” he said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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