Waukesha County: Preparing for Foxconn

-Tim Casey, director of economic development, Waukesha County Center for Growth

Foxconn has announced Mount Pleasant as the site for its new $10 billion manufacturing plant. The Waukesha County Center for Growth and the Waukesha County Business Alliance have been supportive of the project since the beginning, and we have been working hard to make sure that Waukesha County is poised to take advantage of the many opportunities Foxconn has to offer.

According to an article by the Milwaukee Business Journal, Foxconn will be seeking partnerships with other companies in our area “to bring the latest technologies and best practices to its plant. That could include exploring advanced manufacturing, education, safety and security, and transportation innovation, including autonomous cars.”

Foxconn has specified the need for suppliers in certain sectors, and we have assembled lists of Waukesha County companies that fit the requirements and provided them directly to Milwaukee 7 (M7), the regional economic development organization working with Foxconn.

We will also be encouraging companies to register on the Wisconsin Supply Chain Marketplace website to open themselves up to Foxconn and other supply-chain opportunities. We know that Foxconn has already been in touch with several companies in Waukesha County, and we have been working with 20 prospects to find additional plant space to accommodate potential future growth.

In addition to working with companies already located in our area, Foxconn anticipates having upwards of 150 current suppliers locate in Wisconsin. Some of those companies will want proximity to Foxconn’s complex, but we have reason to believe others will be looking at options in Waukesha County.

We have seen an increase in inquiries about larger industrial sites and buildings since the Foxconn announcement. We have taken brokers, site selectors and developers from our region and the Chicago area on tours of specific sites. Waukesha County’s 83 million square feet of industrial space is second only to Milwaukee County in the region, our vacancy rate is below 4% and we recently led an effort to inventory our 88 existing business parks and map more than 400 parcels that are suitable for future industrial and business park development. We are seeing an increased interest in development of additional industrial space by private real estate firms, which will be required to land all those opportunities in the county.

Foxconn has promised to create up to 13,000 jobs at the manufacturing plant itself and we have been working hard to make sure our workforce is skilled and ready for the opportunity. We are working with many partners from K-12 school districts, technical colleges and universities to workforce development agencies and other nonprofit partners to foster an ecosystem that will attract, retain and develop talent for Foxconn and other companies in the region.

The Alliance and the Center for Growth will continue to support these efforts to prepare Waukesha County and the region for Foxconn, while staying focused on the needs of our 950 existing manufacturers. We look forward to finding innovative solutions to our workforce development needs, infrastructure needs and more, to enable all manufacturers to succeed and elevate our entire region.