Trump

President Donald Trump greets men learning how to machine parts as he tours Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee on Tuesday.

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

The "very happy surprise" that President Donald Trump referred to in an appearance with Gov. Scott Walker in Waukesha Tuesday could come to Wisconsin in the form of Foxconn, a huge Taiwanese electronics company that assembles iPhones.

Just how big is the company?

According to business research firm Hoovers, the multinational contract electronics giant, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, was worth $134 billion in 2016, with gross profits of $10 billion. 

With manufacturing operations in numerous countries in Asia, Europe and South and Central America, the company in 2012 accounted for about 40 percent of the world's electronic gadgets, according to the New York Times.

The company is reportedly planning a $7 billion expansion into the U.S., which would create 50,000 jobs. That projection is based on connect-the-dots logic from a meeting Trump had last December with Japanese SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, who announced the $7 billion investment, but wouldn't provide details. Paperwork from the meeting featured Foxconn's logo. 

So when Trump, visited Waukesha County Technical College Tuesday and said a “major, major” manufacturer could be coming to Wisconsin, Foxconn was seen as the likely manufacturer.

"Just backstage, we were negotiating with a major, major incredible manufacturer of phones and computers and televisions and I think they’re going to give the governor a very happy surprise very soon," Trump said.

Foxconn is most known for its iPhone production. But it has also contracted with other major tech firms including Amazon's Kindle, Nintendo, Nokia, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox.

The company already has a presence in the U.S., with manufacturing facilities in Virginia and Indiana, and logistics operations in California and Texas, according to 9to5mac.com.

But Foxconn also has a dismal record in terms of working conditions. In China, 18 workers in 2010 plunged from the tops of Foxconn buildings in protest, killing 14 and prompting the company to equip some of its facilities with safety nets.  

Two years later, 150 workers threatened to leap to their deaths in a mass suicide, but were coaxed down after spending three days atop the building. 

With Trump's announcement came lukewarm praise from the Wisconsin Assembly's leading Democrat on Wednesday.

"As a member of the (Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation) board, I’m not at liberty to say much other than the fact that I know it’s been reported fairly widely that this is a possibility and it would be obviously a huge investment in the state," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca. "It’s something I would be interested to see what transpires."

But he added that the state should also be putting equal efforts toward fostering technology entrepreneurs.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, was more enthusiastic.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.