Foxconn picks Mount Pleasant site for massive factory

Facility to be located between Highways 11 and KR

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

Foxconn Technology Group on Wednesday announced the selection of a Mount Pleasant site for its planned LCD panel manufacturing operation, ending months of speculation about where the facility would be located.

The company plans to build its $10 billion facility just east of Interstate 94 between Braun Road and Highway KR (1st Street). The site is on the opposite side of I-94 from Apple Holler.

Jenny Trick, RCEDC executive director, looks on as the Foxconn location is unveiled.

Land between Highway 11 and Braun Road (east of I-94) is slated for a future expansion and space east of Highway H (West 105th Street) between Braun Road and Highway KR (1st Street) is set aside for construction staging and another possible future expansion.

“Foxconn chooses to build our first advanced manufacturing campus in Racine County for many reasons, including its talented and hard-working workforce, which is a major competitive advantage for this region,” the company said in a statement. “Together with the people of Racine County, we will create a robust 8K+5G ecosystem in the United States to meet future needs for the most advanced display technology.”

Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, was on hand for the announcement and called it “a very significant step forward.”

“We are inviting local partners to work with us to develop innovative solutions,” Woo said, adding that after partnerships the company’s investment could be closer to $30 billion or $40 billion.

The initial campus will include a liquid crystal display plant, a facility to back-end package LCD modules, a facility focused on molding and tool and die processes, and an end-set assembly operation to produce units

Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, speaks at the Mount Pleasant site announcement.

What remains to be seen is how much Mount Pleasant and Racine County will have to pay in incentives or infrastructure improvements to land the project. When the state was offering Foxconn $1.1 billion for a smaller version of the project, the offer included an additional $100 million to $150 million in local incentives. If the local package grew as much as the state offer did, it could range from $270 million to $410 million.

“The village of Mount Pleasant and Racine County have been hard at work to craft a well thought-out, and conservative local incentive package,” said Claude Lois, Mount Pleasant project director. “We are committed to balancing the need to attract this long-term investment, while maintaining our commitment to local taxpayers.”

Elected officials plan to hold three information sessions about the project over the coming weeks in Mount Pleasant, Racine and Burlington.

The cost of landing the project would be weighed against the economic development opportunity the project represents. If Foxconn follows through with its hiring plans, which include 13,000 employees with an average salary of $53,875, it would represent a 20 percent increase in private sector employment in Racine County.

Jenny Trick, Racine County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said the company would be signing a memorandum of understanding with local officials that sets the framework for a comprehensive developer’s agreement.

RCEDC worked to assemble available land for the project and has roughly 1,800 acres under option. The initial area planned for construction, between Braun Road and Highway KR, represents around 1,000 acres. RCEDC has about 900 acres of that area under control, Trick said.

“There’s some properties to the west that are not currently under option, but that’s not where the footprint of the initial property campus is going,” she said.

Trick and Mount Pleasant village president Dave DeGroot said RCEDC offers for land have been around $50,000 per acre. DeGroot didn’t rule out the possibility of using eminent domain to acquire additional land, but said the goal was to have negotiated purchases.

“Keep in mind, we’re dealing with road widening … those situations often may go in that (eminent domain) direction,” DeGroot said.

The plan is for RCEDC to exercise its options on most of the land later this year and for construction to begin in the second quarter of next year.

“When all the snow is gone we hope to be moving dirt,” Trick said.

DeGroot and Trick both said Racine County didn’t know for certain it had been selected when Kenosha dropped out of the running around the middle of September.

“Until you get it in writing, until you get that hand shake, we’re always uncertain,” Trick said.

DeGroot said President Donald Trump’s public disclosure of negotiations during a June visit to Waukesha County Technical College upped the pressure on the village.

“The president kind of let the cat out of the bag very early on and we’re like holy mackerel, we’ve got to get going in order to get done what we need to get done,” DeGroot said.

“It didn’t make it any easier,” DeGroot said when asked if Trump’s disclosure altered negotiations. “Once the cat gets out of the bag people come to the realization that ‘Hey, I might be sitting on something of value.'”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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