Foxconn's contentious Wisconsin plant will be used to make ventilators

The Taiwanese company has partnered with healthcare company Medtronic.

Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Foxconn’s dubious Wisconsin factory — the subject of billions of dollars of tax subsidy scrutiny — will be used to produce ventilators to aid in treatment for COVID-19 around the US. The company, best known for assembling Apple’s iPhones at factories in China, has entered into a partnership with healthcare firm Medtronic for the project, which will see ventilators produced “as soon as possible,” according to a statement provided to Reuters.

The factory — dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world” by President Trump — was first announced back in 2017 and has been the focus of controversy ever since. While its arrival promised new job opportunities for the state, many homes would subsequently be bulldozed to make space for the plant. It was initially earmarked for use as an LCD factory, but plans have repeatedly changed and the ample job opportunities never materialized. For the few that did, pay and working conditions was were way below those originally touted by Foxconn. Meanwhile, the plant was in receipt of more than $4.5 billion in government incentives. The whole endeavour has certainly fallen short of its promises.

Considering the fanfare surrounding the plant, it’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long for it to be put to use. However, given the sweeping global challenges the coronavirus represents this is certainly a good use for the facility. The partnership will see the mass production of Medtronic’s PB-560 ventilator, although neither party has confirmed exactly how many they hope it make. Other tech companies have also turned their attention to manufacturing ventilators during the crisis. Tesla is working on its own ventilator design, for example, while Ford hopes to produce 50,000 devices from its Michigan plant. In the UK, meanwhile, British vacuum brand Dyson plans to produce 15,000 ventilators from a design it created in just 10 days.