Michigan Bags Multi-Billion Foxconn Facility for Autonomous Vehicle R&D
Foxconn’s intense industrial entry into U.S. continues with the announcement of a second mega-facility in Michigan’s car country.
Taiwan's mega-manufacturer, Foxconn, the largest contract manufacturer in the world and the primary maker of Apple’s iPhone, will reportedly open a multibillion-dollar research and development facility in Michigan, according to reports in the South China Morning Post. Standing seperate from two previously announced potential facilities in Wisconsin, this potential Michigan facility will add another spoke in Foxconn's master plan to establish a manufacturing ecosystem in the Midwest by leveraging the state's strong automobile base of hard and soft assets.
Foxconn founder Terry Gou told the Post that the new Michigan facility will engage in the research and development of autonomous vehicles. "Automotive development in the U.S. is still more advanced than China," Gou was quoted as saying. "Besides self-driving technology, I'm also interested in artificial intelligence and deep learning technology."
The news comes barely two weeks since Foxconn announced a blockbuster $10 billion Wisconsin plant to manufacture display panels. That facility is expected to create an initial 3,000 jobs somewhere in southeastern Wisconsin—the exact location will be announced soon—with the potential to expand to 13,000 jobs should the intended $10 billion build-out go to plan.
President Trump had previously mentione quite casually that Foxconn’s investment in the U.S. could triple to US $30 billion eventually, but he failed to provide any additional details. Unlike his prediction that Apple itself would make major investments in production in the U.S., at least so far, the President has proven prescient where it comes to Foxconn.
With so much mega-project potential, it’s been a furious start to 2017 for the site selection industry. States and communities have been waging economic development war to dangle tax incentives and subsidies for these Foxconn investments and many other industrial facilities, which are setting up operations in the U.S. because it’s cheaper. After decades of wage stagnation, abundant and cheap energy and close proximity to final consumers, the decision to manufacture in America makes worlds of sense once again. At the same time, in China, manufacturing business are being hamstrung by rising wages, input and resources constraints and other increasing costs.
As BL covered previously here and here, Foxconn is far from alone in siting factories in the U.S. Toyota and Mazda also announced this week a joint partnership to construct a US$1.6 billion assembly line in the U.S. with the capacity to produce 300,000 electric self-driving cars and create up to 4,000 jobs. Days later, Mazda followed up with an announcement it would become the world's first automaker to commercialize a much more efficient petrol engine using well-known technology carmakers have been trying to engineer for decades. The new compression ignition engine is 20-30% percent more fuel efficient than the Japanese automaker's current engines.
"It's a major breakthrough," Ryoji Miyashita, chairman of automotive engineering company AEMSS Inc., told Reuters. The technology, if not Toyota and Mazda’s new billion dollar facility, might breathe one last generation of production life into an internal combustion engine that seems to be staring down extinction in an industry going completely electric.
It’s a high time for industrial innovation. Change is coming fast and furious in business segments across the spectrum. Old tech and new tech are working overtime to compete and win in the new economy. Billions of dollars are being invested into these new economic opportunities and factory towns across the U.S. are in line benefit.
Some already are.
Bonus Michigan coverage: What is the mysterious 850 acre “Project Tim” in Durand, Michigan?
According to report by Crain’s Detroit a mystery company has assembled 850 acres in land options to build a $5 billion industrial facility along I-69 and a railroad in Shiawassee County. Local officials will only say the plan is to build the largest manufacturing plant in the country.
Known only as "Project Tim" from a document the company provided to local government and economic officials, a "small group of globally leading companies and experts" who want to build a 24 million-square-foot facility that would be "the greenest facility of its kind anywhere in the world."
"As of this time we cannot share details on the precise nature of Project Tim," according to the document, "... It will be a high-tech industrial development unlike anything that you have probably ever seen before." The massive manufacturing facility plans to create 800 full-time jobs in "Phase 1" before sprawling into a facility 6,200 feet long and 3,900 feet wide that would top 550 acres in size.