Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Foxconn HQ In Downtown Milwaukee

Company building Racine area plant coming here to attract talent, grow new business line.

By - Feb 6th, 2018 04:42 pm
611 Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

611 Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn will make downtown Milwaukee their Wisconsin headquarters. It’s all part of what Governor Scott Walker is calling “the Foxconn bonus.”

The company, which is in the early stages of building an estimated $10 billion campus in southern Racine County, is getting a $4.1 billion subsidy from state and local governments to build a 20 million-square-foot campus that will employ up to 13,000 people.

Now they’ll also be setting up shop in downtown Milwaukee with space for up to 650 people, although all of those people might not end up being Foxconn employees.

The company is purchasing a Northwestern Mutual office building at 611 E. Wisconsin Ave. and will rename it Foxconn Place. The seven-story building was built in 1964 by Northwestern Mutual and used for a long time as a data center by IBM. Northwestern Mutual has used the property for office space since 2001, but no longer needs the space following the completion of the 1.1 million-square-foot Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons.

Terms of the sale, which is expected to close in 2018, were not disclosed. The property was assessed at $11,471,000 in 2017. The building has 131,040 square feet of space according to city records. It also includes a substantial parking lot, which city records list at 286 stalls.

The company, which was careful to note this isn’t their official North American headquarters, will use the facility for their “non-industrial activities” related to the development of products around 8K displays and 5G communications. This includes what they’re calling the Wisconn Valley Innovation Center and a product showcase center.

A release from the company says they intend the facility to house incubators, accelerator labs, venture capital activities and start-up initiatives. Northwestern Mutual CEO John Schlifske, who had his office in the building for eight years before assuming his current role, said Northwestern Mutual anticipates locating some of the companies they’re supporting with venture capital investments in the space.

Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, was in attendance at the event and said the company views the downtown location as important to not only attracting highly-skilled employees to the company on a local level, but on a national level. He said that he thinks as young employees start families and grow older it will be easier to get them to the Racine campus, but the downtown location will be a key selling point to recent college graduates.

According to Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy, the move is “an exciting new addition to the Wisconsin economy, an addition to the regional technology profile and a sign of Milwaukee’s resurgence.”

Alan Yeung of Foxconn, head of US strategic initiatives, said “I hope not” when asked if this would be the last major investment Foxconn makes in Wisconsin, but said the company has no immediate plans to build a tower in the parking lot or make major changes to the building.

Yeung said securing a downtown location has always been very high on Foxconn’s agenda.

County Executive Chris Abele, who drew support from Walker for his steadfast support of the deal, said: “we’re looking at an opportunity as to what can go right.” Abele had previously told Urban Milwaukee when the deal was unveiled that he was pitching the company a final assembly site with direct airport access.

Governor Walker was all smiles while announcing the news at a press conference held on the top floor of Northwestern Mutual’s new tower. He had another reason to smile as well: it’s his 25th wedding anniversary and his wife, Tonnette, was sitting in the front row. The two had just come from lunch at the place they first met, Saz’s.

Mayor Tom Barrett was not in attendance at the event, a reversal from when the city-supported Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons opened and Abele and Walker weren’t in attendance.

Foxconn, represented by Colliers International, approached Northwestern Mutual about buying the block in late 2017.

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21 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Foxconn HQ In Downtown Milwaukee”

  1. WashCoRepub says:

    A tremendous investment in Milwaukee by Foxconn and the citizens of Wisconsin. What a legacy this Governor is going to enjoy.

    Too bad Mayor Barrett couldn’t make it… But then he was probably busy inspecting streetcar tracks or something important.

  2. Tim says:

    Why should the mayor show up if not invited? Nothing says classy to someone opening a building, like a local politician clamoring for attention.

    With Barrett there, that would make three… no one wants to be a third wheel.

  3. Frank Galvin says:

    It’s like watching a con being run on a Rockford Files episode.

  4. PMD says:

    Holy irony WashCoRepub. You mean that as a dig (wow more streetcar jokes!) but the governor and the Foxconn representative say a downtown location will attract young college graduates. What do those young college graduates look for when deciding where to work and live? Good public transportation. So make fun all you want, but college grads want to be in a vibrant downtown, not Washington County. Funny too that Walker isn’t bashing Milwaukee now.

  5. Terry says:

    So they’re buying a building with our tax dollars career politician Walker gave them and republicans are cheering?

  6. Joe R says:

    I hear there’ll be 600 people working in that building. Let’s see . . . at $200,000 per job, that’s $120 million of state-funded incentives that Foxconn is getting to staff their HQ. That Scott Walker is a shrewd and crafty negotiator.

  7. Terry says:

    They are buying a building in Milwaukee with some our money just so everyone can be constantly reminded of all of our money that Career Politician Scott Walker gave them.

  8. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    It is not our money it is money from what Foxconn would be paying in future. No money is coming from some other programs, People on this site are so partisan and stupid.
    Fact is that this is the biggest best deal for our families, workers in our history. This downtown is just added cream on top. Companies are buying up real estate all along the expressway fro growth including the old Dog park, a whit elephant for decades.
    Fact is that with the multipliers we learned in Chamber of Commerce, we will have 50,000 total jobs in SE Wisconsin with jobs badly need for our young keeping them from welfare, drug, jobs for single mothers of value, a whole village/city is going to grow up in SE Wiscosnin drawing businesses from Illinois and workers from throughout Wisconsin. it is fantastic. The stupid Dems are fighting it which if successfull would brand us as anti business fro decades.

  9. TransitRider says:

    WCD, actually people are buying up land along the streetcar for development. The property taxes from new development more than covers the streetcar operating subsidy, which is something that bus service could never do.

  10. @Wisconsin Conservative Digest – You are wrong about the Foxconn payments. It will require cash payments from the treasury because Foxconn’s state income tax burden is virtually non-existent as a manufacturer and the credits are refundable. This has been widely reported.

  11. Happyjack says:

    596 “admin” staff, 4 coders.

    Everything else: robots!

  12. Happyjack says:

    “Incubators, accelators, venture capitalsts…”

    First of all, this cracks me up. You realize they are a manufacturing plant that make cellphone screens, right? I’m sure it will be a hip and trendy place for all the intellectual talent to congregate.

    Secondly, notably absent from that list is: employees.

    They buy a building with our money, put some furniture in it, call it an incubator, and pause for applause.

    Meanwhile, still no jobs…

  13. Terry says:

    Walker Foxconned Wisconsin! Enjoy your taxes going through the roof for corporate welfare for a FOREIGN company republicans! Now you get to be reminded of all the money you will be shelling out every time you drive by this dump. Speaking of dumps…

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump all republicans 2018!

    Wisconsin taxpayers will be paying 200k per job for this “deal” idiot Walker made. What a great deal. It’s almost as if, he’s a career politician and not a business person!. Time to.give him the chance to earn a “real” living in the private sector by dumping Walker in 2018!

  14. Max says:

    Good for NM to dump that dump of a building. I’m really surprised that it appears (based on what they said) that Foxxcon is taking it ‘as is’. Anyone who knows anyone that used to work in that building knows how horrible it is…..

  15. MidnightSon says:

    This move is more than a bit perplexing to me.

    On the one hand, we have an international manufacturing company buying, not leasing, a building downtown. Sounds good. That rarely happens in Milwaukee, but it sounds reasonable given Foxconn’s plans for Racine.

    But on the other hand, manufacturing firms rarely put headquarters in city downtowns, opting for the suburbs or somewhere closer to a manufacturing center. And, the whole way this is being communicated is weird. It sounds like the seven floors of this building will be working triple time as start-up space, accelerators, incubators, and also a place to showcase product. I agree with Happyjack: little talk about actual employees…except that Foxconn sees this as a way to lure young people to the area until they want to start families. Then, they will move down to Racine, presumably because they want bigger houses, back yards, and good schools, none of which can apparently be found in and around Milwaukee. Since the new Milwaukee “Foxconn Place, is supposed to be for all of its non-industrial activities, what are will these newly-minted Foxconn parents be doing in Racine? Manufacturing? Just so weird. Even Walker can’t bring himself to add any specificity to this move. Just some vague statement about this all being part of “the Foxconn bonus.”

    I am among the first to hope that Wisconsin and Milwaukee somehow makes out big time with this Foxconn deal, but that remains to be seen. The company has an awful record of follow through and this may well simply be political theater. Just don’t look behind the curtain.

  16. Happyjack says:

    To be fair, they didn’t say that they wouldn’t have any employees there. But the also did not say they would.

    I would think that of they has any appreciable amount of employees there doing any thing significant, they’d advertise that like hotcakes. Especially given the narrative they are trying to build. Which leads any reasonable person to one conclusuon: they felt that they would lose that battle, and they’d be better off talking about floor space. Which – mind you has existed in that building since it was first built.

    This is one of those cases where the silence is defeaning.

  17. Happyjack says:

    In short: “Hey! Free building!”

  18. PMD says:

    $7 million to attract millennials by telling them the cost of living is low here. Walker has millennial sons but you’d think no one in his administration had ever heard of or met one. They know nothing about them or why they chose to live and work somewhere.

  19. Terry says:

    @PMD, exactly. The vast majority of young educated people want nothing to do with Scott Walker’s Wississippi. Walker and republicans don’t understand, or refuse to admit that it’s their own policies that are driving people in general but young educated people specifically away from Wisconsin. It’s simple. People want social and economic freedom. Walker’s Wississippi provides neither! Nobody wants to live in Walker’s Wississippi, with low wages, no benefits and with their rights costantly under threat. Remember, if Walker and republicans had their way, gay marriage would still be illegal, abortion rights would still be illegal (even in cases of incest and rape!? Yuck!?) the environment and labor would be there only to be exploited by corporate interests that pay off Walker and the responsible adult use of cannabis would still represent a mortal threat to civil society itself! People aren’t buying it anymore you crazy socially regressive republicans! That’s why all the educated, hardworking people are fleeing the state. Why work for pennies in Wisconsin and have your rights denied or under constant threat when you can make great money out west, with great benefits, better weather AND you get to keep all your rights! It’s a no-brainer, thus republicans can’t figure it out.

    Dump Walker 2018

  20. PMD says:

    And I know WCD and WashCoRepub are elderly, but it’s not like what millennials want in a city hasn’t been widely reported. They praise the Foxconn deal and likely support spending millions to attract millennials, but they mock every effort Milwaukee makes to be a city people want to work and live in. Milwaukee and Madison are the only reasons young people want to live in this state. They are the future. Not West Bend.

  21. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    PMD-Dohnal/WCD is documented to be a senile fool, I agree.

    But it always seemed obvious to me that WashCoRepub was a 20-something PoliSci brat working a gig for the Walker campaign and/or Bradley Foundation stink tank. It’s the combinstion of coherent grammar and recitation of BS talking points that are the give away.

    Both are worthless trash that should be ignored on most posts, but especially with the Fox-con. I also like how the Walker donors at NML get a nice kickback by having Foxconn buy their building for an “undisclosed price.”

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