Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:11 pm
Foxconn Technology Group’s plans for a massive LCD manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant are nothing if not complex. The company has set ambitious timelines to build a manufacturing campus that is the first of its kind in the United States and is moving forward with multiple parallel processes at the same time.
Given the size, speed and complexity of the project, it may not be all that surprising Foxconn is turning to veterans of the U.S. military to get its operations up and running.
“I think there is no better management school than the military,” said Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee this summer.
Foxconn’s first two Wisconsin employees are veterans – one a Navy pilot, the other a former Army planner. The company also hired a Marine who had just retired as commanding officer of a tactical fighter base to oversee the Wisconn Valley Science & Technology Park.
“You look at this bunch of veterans and we are extremely lucky to have them,” Woo said.
Hiring veterans was part of Foxconn’s original plan when it announced it would locate in Wisconsin. In September, the company announced 20 veteran career fairs it planned to attend in 13 states by the end of the year. By the time the company is finished, it hopes to count 3,000 veterans as employees in Wisconsin.
Foxconn declined to say how many veterans it has hired or how many employees it has in the state overall.
“We’d like to have all 13,000 be veterans. Obviously we’re biased, but that’s not really realistic,” said Capt. Chris “Tank” Murdoch, a former Navy pilot and Foxconn’s first employee in the state. “If we can get to 3,000, I think that would be a remarkable accomplishment.”
Murdoch joined Foxconn in 2017 from a job with the Naval ROTC at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When President Donald Trump joined Gou in Wisconsin for a ceremonial groundbreaking, Murdoch was there, along with Gov. Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The size and scale of Foxconn’s planned investment attracted him to the job, Murdoch said during an interview in June.
“The military is being part of something larger than yourself, being part of a larger mission,” he said. “Actually trying to be part of something bigger than me, a larger mission, trying to build something here in Wisconsin … that was very attractive to me.”
Murdoch, Foxconn senior director of project management, helped recruit Wisconsin employee No. 2, Lt. Col. Scott Rubitzky, a 27-year Army veteran. The two are longtime friends and were both involved in the VFW post in Middleton for the past several years. When Murdoch told Rubitzky about Foxconn’s plans, it did not take much to get him to sign on.
“Frankly, I had been retired for six years. I had sat at home, cutting the lawn,” Rubitzky said. “When Tank explained what was happening here, it excited me.”
Rubitzky, director of business development and plans for Foxconn’s Wisconsin subsidiary, brings a background that fits with the complexity of the Foxconn project. Before retiring, he was chief of plans for southwest Asia at U.S. Central Command. He also was a planner for the 3rd Infantry Division’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and worked on setting up the first elections in Bosnia after the country split from Yugoslavia.
A third member of the core Foxconn team of veterans joined earlier this year. After relinquishing command of the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina, Col. Peter Buck moved his family back to Wisconsin, where he grew up and has extended family.
“I think our military background is we’re very action-oriented, and this is a very fast- paced initiative that we have here,” said Buck, a Foxconn senior advisor who Woo jokingly refers to as the “mayor” of Wisconn Valley. “The team here, because of our common background, has immediately gelled. The chemistry is really good.”