For areas outside Foxconn’s core of activity in Racine County, community and business stakeholders should start considering how they might benefit from the mega project—now and in the future, a state official said.
Matt Moroney from the State Department of Administration spoke Thursday night to about 40 Whitewater-area residents during the Greater Whitewater Committee’s annual meeting. He said Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn’s electronics screen manufacturing facility could bring 28,000 supplier jobs to Wisconsin by the early 2020s.
That would be in addition to the estimated 10,000 construction jobs the site could draw over the next four to five years and the estimated 10,000 to 13,000 permanent jobs Foxconn said it would create.
“Foxconn is committed to creating an ecosystem that is going to rival Silicon Valley,” Moroney said. The company’s Racine County complex would cover hundreds of acres.
Moroney is the strategic economic initiative director in charge of working with Foxconn as the company begins its Wisconsin project. The state has committed nearly $3 billion in tax incentives for a “pay-as-you-go” project he said is “largest foreign direct investment in U.S. history.”
Moroney called the Foxconn project a “catalyst” the state hopes could reverse “brain drain” that has dragged on Wisconsin’s workforce and economy for decadesand said the project represents an “extreme home makeover on steroids” that could have a ripple effect of benefits and challenges that spreads throughout the state.
During a 30-minute talk, Moroney laid out a timeline showing Foxconn plans to break ground this spring. By 2019, there could be 8,000 to 10,000 construction workers on site.
He told Whitewater area business officials, including some affiliated with UW-Whitewater, that Foxconn is committed to fostering “incubators, accelerators and entrepreneurship opportunities” linked to its development of large-screen technology in Wisconsin.
The state is also trying to find the best way to connect Wisconsin’s university and technical college networks to planners at Foxconn, he said.
“We need to do a lot of investigating on attracting and training and retaining workers and keeping graduates here,” Moroney said. “We view this as a chance to get ‘brain gain.’”
Some local and tech colleges Moroney said the state has talked to so far have started to think about how they can reshape programs in ways that gear students toward work at Foxconn or within the industries that could spring up as a result of Foxconn’s presence.
“We need to dive deeper,” he said. “Educational groups are looking at this as an opportunity to reinvent their programs and be a little more nimble and more focused.”State officials are establishing channels for businesses, communities and economic development groups in Wisconsin to tap into a pipeline Moroney said will create a $1.4 billion supply chain—larger than that of any other single industry in Wisconsin.
They are paying particular attention to that supply chain and wants to find ways to give Wisconsin companies a “chance to participate.”
“We’ve told them we want them to use Wisconsin-based suppliers wherever possible,” Moroney said.
He said the state plans to make one resource, its Supply Chain Marketplace website, a conduit that could link supply chain companies in Wisconsin with Foxconn.
Another outreach the state is trying, Moroney said, is Wisconn Valley News, the state’s online newsletter that gives updates on Foxconn construction plans and infrastructure improvements.