When President Donald Trump alluded to negotiations between a “major, incredible manufacturer” and Wisconsin officials in June, rumors, followed by media frenzy, surrounding a mega manufacturing plant coming to the state persisted for weeks.
Ultimately, Foxconn Technology Group chose Wisconsin and in October, announced it would build a $10 billion facility just east of I-94, between Braun Road and Highway KR in Mount Pleasant.
But before anyone knew if it was coming, or where the site would be located, northern Illinois-based real estate investor Jeffrey Rothbart was asking questions of his own.
And through his own investigative work, he appears to have struck the real estate lottery.
Rothbart, managing director of Northbrook, Illinois-based Stack Real Estate LLC, has four parcels of land near the Foxconn site, totaling 222 acres, under contract to purchase.
The first, a 33-acre parcel at 12721 Louis Sorenson Road, is located in the $764 million tax increment financing district created by the Village of Mount Pleasant, which means Rothbart will benefit from the infrastructure upgrades made to the property.
A 26-acre parcel, at 3247 County Highway H, is directly across the street from Foxconn’s future expansion site.
Rothbart is also purchasing a 62-acre site two miles east of the Foxconn site, at 7414 Braun Road.
On Nov. 16, Rothbarth put another 100 acres under contract in Franksville, at Highway V and Golf Road, just south of Highway K. The vacant site is about 4.5 miles from where Foxconn is planning to build.
“I’m planning to build on it for Foxconn suppliers and subcontractors,” Rothbart said, adding that he plans to continue to acquire property in Racine County on a strategic basis. “Without giving away too much of the secret sauce, I think I have unlocked the mystery of this thing.”
So how did Rothbart figure out these prime locations?
It started with young children, small bladders and a chance meeting.
“My wife is a Milwaukee native, so I travel this corridor all of the time,” he said. “Usually, I have to get off on Highway 50 or Highway 20 for my kids to go to the bathroom, and I’ve been noticing all of the development.”
In February, Rothbart was in Kenosha County for a meeting and drove east on Highway 50 to Green Bay Road.
After his meeting, he continued to drive around Kenosha and into Racine and noticed a lack of garden-style apartment complexes.
That is when he decided to put his first piece of land under contract in Wisconsin. Rothbart has an option to purchase 37 acres from the Racine Public Library board of trustees at North Green Bay Road and Spring Street in Mount Pleasant, where he plans to develop multi-family housing.
He has not yet moved forward on the project because the village has a moratorium on new sewer connections. Samuel Schultz, community development director for the Village of Mount Pleasant, said the moratorium could be lifted by the end of 2018.
It was while Rothbart was working on plans for the multi-family housing project in Mount Pleasant that he caught wind of Foxconn.
“I started talking to people and a lot of the information I got said it would be in between the interstate and Highway H and KR and 20,” Rothbart said. “I looked at a map, got in my car and drove through people’s farms and God knows what, until I was able to tie up the land.”
Before founding Stack Real Estate, Rothbart received his bachelor’s from Emory University, his juris doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law and his master of law degree in Taxation from Northwestern University.
Rothbart is also the head of investments for Peer Realty and a principal at Birchwood Health Care Properties LLC and Insignia Homes.
He plans to purchase the four parcels in Racine County over the next six months to a year. Foxconn expects its land transfers will take place in early 2018 and it will break ground on its $10 billion campus in spring.
Rothbart is still in the process of master planning his sites and working out a timeline for the construction projects. Since the Foxconn project was announced, there has been excited speculation about the draw of new suppliers to the state.
Foxconn’s campus is projected to create more than 11,400 supply chain jobs, according to a company-commissioned report.
“I’m optimistic there will be a speculative industrial component on the land,” Rothbart said. “At the end of the day, there just isn’t enough space to meet the demand of the users.”