Gov. Walker and Foxconn officials spoke to a cheering crowd Tuesday as they released more details of Foxconn’s plans to bring hundreds of jobs to downtown Milwaukee.
Foxconn has agreed to purchase a 132,000 square foot building on E. Wisconsin Avenue from Northwestern Mutual. The Taiwanese electronics giant says it will locate a regional headquarters there.
Several dozen business leaders gathered on the top floor of the Northwestern Mutual glass tower, and looked out onto a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee. Gov. Walker reminisced about a similar event in downtown Milwaukee last summer – when he and Foxconn officials gathered at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and signed a memorandum of understanding for Foxconn to build a huge LCD screen manufacturing plant.
Later, the company revealed the plant would be located in Mount Pleasant in Racine County. The state provided $3 billion in incentives to lure the company and the complex in Mount Pleasant could eventually employ up to 13,000 people.
On Tuesday, Walker called the Milwaukee operation “the Foxconn bonus” and predicted that the center would spur a slew of development throughout the region. He used the term Wisconn Valley, his pet name for the project.
“I think this idea of Wisconn Valley, this footprint growing and including Milwaukee, not just downtown, but I think in the near future we are going to hear about more exciting things about growing opportunities for people to work and be connected and expand and we’re going to see that footprint grow and grow and grow and grow,” he said.
Walker unveiled the name of the Milwaukee headquarters – it’ll be called Foxconn Place. He said the state didn’t offer any new incentives for Foxconn to locate in downtown Milwaukee.
Alan Yeung, director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives, said Foxconn hopes to move in to the building at 611 E. Wisconsin Avenue later this year Milwaukee has been on the company’s radar for a while, he said, and hinted of a longstanding partnership with Northwestern Mutual, after the purchase of the 611 building.
“The downtown location has always been very high on our agenda. We feel very fortunate to find that in the 611 building and also find that in our great strategic partner that we hope to work with for years to come,” Yeung said
Yeung wouldn’t say exactly how many people would be hired, but noted the building can hold about 600 workers. Among other things, the downtown headquarters will provide a space for local innovators, he said.
“Not everybody will be Foxconn employees, we’re expecting workers and employees who would hail from our partners, maybe some entrepreneurs and also companies who are venture-backed,” Yeung said.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett didn’t attend the event, but issued a statement of support. He thanked Northwestern Mutual and Foxconn for their shared investments in downtown Milwaukee. He said adding an international business presence to the central business district is yet another example of the strength of the Milwaukee renaissance.
One person who opposed the Foxconn $3 billion incentives package in the legislature is state Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee. She said it’s encouraging that Foxconn is locating its regional headquarters here, but questioned how many of the jobs will go to city residents. “Will they be hiring individuals to fill the positions that they will have in the building that they will acquire from Northwestern Mutual or will they be moving individuals who already work for them into that building?"
Taylor also noted a high unemployment rate in Milwaukee’s central city and said she’s disappointed that there still isn’t a plan for mass transportation of her constituents to Foxconn jobs in Racine County.