Foxconn’s New High-Tech Campus Brings the Future of Electronics Manufacturing to Wisconsin
Wisconsin First: Hiring Local Talent Benefits Foxconn’s New High-Tech Campus Project
The state of Wisconsin is poised to become one of North America’s leading high-tech hubs, thanks to Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group’s plans to create innovation centers in the cities of Racine, Green Bay, and Eau Claire. In addition, the global corporation is investing billions to construct the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park (WVSTP) in the Village of Mount Pleasant, which is located at the heart of Racine County and is one of Wisconsin’s fastest-growing communities.
Foxconn, well-known as an assembler of iPhones, specializes in the design, manufacturing and assembly of computers and technologically advanced consumer electronics products. The company’s WVSTP project represents the largest greenfield investment by a foreign-based business in U.S. history, and is touted to create 13,000 permanent jobs in the state as well as tens of thousands of indirect jobs and construction jobs. Once it turns operational, the new state-of-the-art complex is expected to have a minimum $7 billion annual economic impact on the state and generate up to $157 million in state tax revenues annually.
Foxconn has committed to making up to $10 billion in capital investments to construct and equip the campus. To date, the tech giant has invested over $200 million – including more than $100 million in construction contracts. This includes completion of a 120,000-square-foot warehouse and multi-use facility and the entire 3-million-square-foot concrete pad that will serve as the base for the next phase of construction, which is scheduled to start this spring.
Construction initiated last April and is slated to be completed in 2021, with plans to commence operations in 2020. The massive 22-million-square-foot campus will be roughly the size of 13 Lambeau football fields.
A Team Effort
The new science and technology complex is located east of Interstate 94 between Highway KR and Braun Road. The primary campus will total approximately 1,198 acres, and there are plans to acquire nearby land to accommodate future expansion and supplier companies.
Foxconn awarded a construction management contract for the project to the joint venture of Gilbane Building Co. and M+W Group. CH2M Cos., a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, is performing architectural and engineering services and The Sigma Group, a local firm, is serving as the project’s environmental consultant.
According to Foxconn, project activities between 2019 and 2020 include construction of a liquid crystal module backend packaging plant, a high-precision molding factory, a system integration assembly facility, a rapid prototyping center designed to help startups test out their hardware ideas and concepts, a research and development center, a high-performance data center in or near the park, and a town center to support the people working at WVSTP.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is also working with officials in Mount Pleasant and Racine County to reconstruct multiple state, village and county roadways around this new development.
Not the Highest Bidder, but Still a Winner
Besides Wisconsin, Foxconn entertained offers from at least four other states including Michigan, which made a $3.8 billion bid for the new Foxconn campus. However, advantageous tax breaks for manufacturers and a cash incentive contributed to Foxconn’s acceptance of Wisconsin’s considerably lower offer.
Wisconsin’s bid package consists of $3 billion in incentives over 15 years, including up to $1.5 billion in state income tax credits for job creation, up to $1.35 billion in state income tax credits for capital investment, and an estimated $150 million for the sales and use tax exemption. All tax credits are “pay as you grow,” meaning that Foxconn can only receive the full $2.85 billion in credits after it has created and maintained 13,000 jobs and made the full $10 billion in capital investment.
Uncertainty Sparks Public Concerns
Foxconn’s original plans for WVSTP included construction of a liquid-crystal display (LCD) manufacturing plant utilizing thin-film transistor (TFT) technology, which would produce the types of flat-panel LCD screens found in commonly used items such as televisions, computer monitors and smartphones. The Wisconsin-made products would have a range of potential applications – from self-driving cars, to aircraft systems, to advanced manufacturing systems, to office automation, and more.
In late January 2019, in response to reports suggesting that Foxconn was reconsidering plans to make LCD technology in Wisconsin, the company reiterated its commitment to building an advanced manufacturing facility. On February 1, Foxconn confirmed that it plans to move forward with construction of a Gen 6 LCD plant, which will likely be capable of making screens ranging in size from a smart phone to a 75-inch television.
Putting Wisconsinites to Work
Situated with easy access to the metropolitan centers of Milwaukee and Chicago, Mount Pleasant’s prime location is one of its greatest assets. Foxconn will be joining an array of local, national and international companies that operate out of the city, such as Case New Holland, Badger Meter, Putzmeister, SC Johnson, Seda International Packaging and others.
The Foxconn project is a tremendous win for Wisconsin’s economy and workforce – both in the short and long term. More than 10,000 construction workers will be needed each year during project development. Once operational, the campus will impact the entire state with annual supply-chain needs estimated around $4 billion, which will open new markets to companies in numerous industries.
Operating under a “Wisconsin First” methodology, the WVSTP project team is dedicated to contracting with and hiring Wisconsin-based businesses and workers, as well as including a diverse workforce. As of mid-January, approximately 95 percent of all contracts had been awarded to Wisconsin companies, with almost 16 percent going to minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses. Thus far more than 90 companies in at least 17 counties throughout Wisconsin have received contracts, and more than 1,030 direct jobs have been created – including jobs for 854 Wisconsin-based employees involved in the construction of WVSTP.
Naturally, workforce development is a major focus of Wisconsin’s civic leaders. For Racine County and its many partners, understanding both the challenges and opportunities of having jobs that need to be filled makes them proactive and strategic in adding new talent to the local labor pool.
“The most advanced manufacturing facility in the world will, quite literally, be built in our backyard,” says Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave. “We have a great opportunity to create sophisticated training programs that will train today’s workers and change the course of future generations.”
Given the tremendous job opportunities available, Racine County is in the midst of its most focused workforce development effort to date. One initiative underway is Racine Works, a program launched last year to help City of Racine residents prepare for public- and private-sector construction job opportunities.
In addition to workforce training, Racine Works will require local hiring for publicly-funded municipal construction projects.
“The City is anticipating more than $100 million in utility work tied to water infrastructure projects for the Foxconn project alone,” says Racine Mayor Cory Mason. “Thanks to the Racine Works program, we will be able to ensure that City residents have the skills needed for these jobs, and that contractors will be committed to hiring from within the City.”
Through Racine Works, the City will partner with Racine County and other organizations and programs that are already training workers, including the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) worker training grant program sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Over $20 million in WFF grant contracts have been issued since the program’s launch in 2014, supporting more than 200 worker training projects and benefitting hundreds of employers and thousands of workers across Wisconsin.
Another noteworthy program is the Greater Racine County talent recruitment initiative, which is geared toward attracting new residents and workers to meet the business needs of Racine County’s 17 communities. This program includes a job board and online platform to highlight the unique reasons why Racine County is a great place to live, work and play.
Last year, Foxconn held and participated in 34 recruitment and job fairs geared toward university students, former military personnel, and the general public. The company even initiated a veteran hiring program to bring former military personnel onto its team at its new North American headquarters in Milwaukee, as well as at WVSTP. At least 22 veterans have new jobs thanks to this program. With over 370,000 veterans living in Wisconsin, employing veterans has been part of Foxconn's recruitment plans since the company announced its investment in the Badger State.
“Hiring men and women who have served the country makes good business sense. Every year, some 250,000 Americans transition from the military to civilian life and Foxconn understands how this transition is an important time in the life of any veteran and their families,” says Christopher “Tank” Murdock, Special Advisor to Foxconn’s Wisconsin operations and a retired Navy Captain. “As Foxconn’s presence in Wisconsin continues to grow, we are continually looking for men and women who are mission-focused, motivated and team-orientated to contribute to our vision of building a vibrant environment for talent, innovation and business across the state.”