Illustration by Scott Gordon and Kristian Knutsen

Series: Foxconn In Wisconsin

Wisconsin's deal with electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn has stirred up a mix of excitement and doubt. The state offered the Taiwan-based company about $3 billion in economic incentives and a waiver on a variety of environmental and other regulations to build a large LCD fabrication complex. In return, Foxconn touted the possibility of creating thousands of jobs and invigorating Wisconsin as a Midwestern tech hub. This type of manufacturing would place considerable demands on the state's natural resources, especially water, and can create significant pollution. The net effect of this deal will take years to emerge, but boosters and skeptics alike agree that a Foxconn footprint would have profound and complex implications for Wisconsin's future.
 
Wisconsin exports a diverse array of agricultural products around the world One high-profile item is ginseng, an herb that has been grown in parts of central Wisconsin for over a century.
Wisconsin has yet to wrap up one big conversation about how it uses Great Lakes water, and is already embarking upon another.
After months of negotiation, Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou signed an incentive package contract between the company and Wisconsin.
No one knows yet for sure how much water Foxconn's planned electronics manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant will need for its daily operations, but just getting it there will be a big job.
Building the infrastructure to serve Foxconn's proposed factory with water will be a major engineering and construction project in its own right.
As Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer Foxconn scouted out potential locations for a LCD manufacturing complex in southeastern Wisconsin — eventually selecting a site in Mount Pleasant that's 20 million square feet in size — the company was also thinking about water.
As Foxconn pursues building a massive LCD manufacturing facility in southeastern Wisconsin, the state's biotechnology and medical-research communities are touting the possibilities of collaboration with the Taiwan-based company.
When it comes to the environmental impact of manufacturing electronics, there is an essential distinction between fabrication and assembly.
An incentives bill currently working its way through the Wisconsin legislature would streamline how the state applies the Great Lakes Compact if the Foxconn decides to use water from Lake Michigan.
The state's scientific research community is already looking for opportunities to collaborate with Foxconn.