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CPBJ Extra Blog

Is Hon Hai really coming here?

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Interesting story developments this week regarding Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese technology manufacturer.

Also known as Foxconn, Hon Hai assembles gadgets for Apple Inc. and other global technology firms. In a ballyhooed announcement in November, Gov. Tom Corbett's administration said Hon Hai is planning to invest $40 million in Pennsylvania, including $30 million for a reported site in Dauphin County.

The company already has a facility in Swatara Township that employs about 30 people. The local investment was to be an expansion of its connector and engineering operations here.

The governor said the new high-end technology manufacturing facility would create 500 jobs over the next two years. The other $10 million would be spent through a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, focusing on research and education in the fields of robotics and advanced manufacturing.

Corbett said the company had not chosen a final site here.

That seemed like a technicality at the time. With coverage this week of remarks made by Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou, now we're not so sure.

Speaking to reporters at the company's 40th anniversary gathering on Sunday, Gou said Hon Hai plans to relocate capital-intensive and high-tech manufacturing to the U.S., its largest market.

Hon Hai has production sites in more than 10 countries, including China, Vietnam, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico and Hungary.

So far, so good.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Gou said, "Hon Hai is studying the feasibility of building an advanced 10th-generation panel manufacturing plant in the U.S."

That sounds a little less definite than Corbett made it seem. At least the WSJ story mentioned Pennsylvania, if only to report this: "the company said it might invest $40 million in manufacturing and research facilities in Pennsylvania."

"Might" is a mighty big qualifier. Then Sunday turned into Monday and other news stories came out that didn't mention Pennsylvania at all.

The Los Angeles Times covered Gou's remarks and said rising transportation costs and wages has Hon Hai preparing to move some operations stateside. The story made no mention of Pennsylvania.

Bloomberg reported that Hon Hai is in talks with several states, including Arizona and Colorado, to set up a manufacturing facility to make high-tech parts. Bloomberg mentioned the Pennsylvania announcement as well, but it also stressed the intense competition for Hon Hai plants.

Could Hon Hai be changing its mind? Or is this merely a case of the media misreporting the company's plans? Time will tell on that front.

For the record, DCED Deputy Press Secretary Lyndsay Kensinger said they are proceeding as though Hon Hai is building a Pennsylvania plant at a location to be determined. She pointed to the WSJ article as confirmation that nothing has changed.

Stay tuned — this is a story we will be following.

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