Foxconn’s North American Headquarters Opening Downtown
Local officials celebrate at press conference, but will unemployed residents win jobs?
Foxconn, the Taiwanese technology manufacturing company, will locate its North American headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.
Now that Northwestern Mutual is in its fancy new high-rise, one of the company’s existing buildings at 611 E. Wisconsin Ave. has become available. So, Friday morning Dr. Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, received the keys to the 131,000-square-foot, seven-story building at a press junket. The companies had jointly announced the deal in early February.
This investment brings with it about 500 jobs, and the possibility that one day Milwaukee’s skyline will be graced with a Foxconn skyscraper. Woo and Alan Yeung, US director of strategic initiatives, both jokingly hinted at the possibility that Foxconn would build a tower on the site in the future.
Foxconn’s leaders plan to modernize their new building to connect to the teams working on construction and logistics at the new Mount Pleasant campus, and to oversee the supply chain for their manufacturing operation. They announced that a request for proposals will soon go out.
When Foxconn first announced its plans to build a massive factory in Wisconsin, hopes in the region rose and state officials promised economic growth spinning off from the investment. In Milwaukee, local leaders like Mayor Tom Barrett, Council President Ashanti Hamilton and County Executive Chris Abele all expressed a similar hope that the headquarters can catalyze growth, and even revitalize the city’s neighborhoods.
Barrett wants for his city what many who worked for the Foxconn deal a year ago wanted for the state: a “multiplier effect” that spreads economic development and jobs, though the mayor’s concern is seeing that impact Milwaukee’s poorer neighborhoods. Hamilton echoed this and more, warning the crowd, largely composed of the press, that, “If we don’t have a very intentional way of being able to connect those people to the opportunities that are being provided right now, then we’ll still miss the boat.”
County Executive Chris Abele expressed as much hope, but seemed to aim in a slightly different direction. “Opportunity goes as far as we can take it,” he said, adding that the massive investment Foxconn has promised is an unprecedented opportunity. And the corporate headquarters is another big opportunity, Abele said. With it comes the economic impact of people living and spending money in the city. “We live in an era where cities measure themselves, among other things by having, being home to corporate headquarters.”
Abele also had a clear idea of how some local industries could capitalize on the new headquarters in Milwaukee. The Foxconn move is ripe for firms in the venture capital and startup industry, Abele suggested. It’s a sector he personally promotes, through his firm, CSA Partners, which funds early stage high-growth tech companies.
“Because Foxconn is a tech company that is so dependent on so many different types of suppliers, they are really attractive to start up companies that want to essentially spin into their supply chain,” Abele declared.
The building was built in 1964 by Northwestern Mutual and used for a long time as a data center by IBM. Foxconn intends to call the building the “Wisconn Valley Innovation Center”
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