Foxconn Begins Its Outreach to Wisconsin Businesses

With an estimated pot of $1.4 billion in contracts, supply chain placement and jobs for the taking, Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn has begun the process of looking for its local Wisconsin vendors. With construction of a 10,000 acre facility near Mount Pleasant set to begin later this spring, Foxconn is reaching out to Wisconsin-based businesses in a series of information sessions around the state.

The first of these sessions was held in southeast Wisconsin, which according to the Racine Journal-Times, drew representatives from nearly 500 businesses ranging from contractors, construction firms, and more.

The information session drew a wide array of company types. Cree, a manufacturer of LED lighting, sent a representative. Scherrer Construction of Burlington attended. Gleason Redi-Mix, a supplier of concrete, was there as was LiftPro, which does aerial lift rentals.

Steed Myles, a project manager for The Glass Company of New Berlin, also attended the session. That company installs glass and can supply it, Myles said.

Wendy Hakken from Keller-Heartt Oil of Oak Creek was there. “We would supply the oils for the heavy equipment during construction,” she said, as well as supplying hydraulic fluids for manufacturing.

Rod Sayas of ARC Document Sales in Waukesha said his company provides blueprinting and software services for contractors, architects and “whoever is designing” the project. ARC already works with Gilbane in the eastern United States, he said.

A similar session is set for next week at Nicolet College in Rhinelander. The plan there is for Foxconn and local economic development corporations to talk with businesses in northern and northeast Wisconsin about “Phase 1” of plant construction.

While the session may be being sold as informational, there’s little doubt that at its heart is a chance for Foxconn to showcase its commitment to making its Badger State presence felt across the entire state economically.

President of Grow North Economic Development Corporation, Vicky Oldham, talks about what will be going on…

“…anyone interested in the construction phase of multiple buildings. There’s also material procurement going on and logistics preparation. Any one interested in the logistics part, construction part or any type of building construction material that they would be interested in being a part of that would want to come and learn more…..”

While critics have said the deal will benefit southern Wisconsin the most, leaving citizens away from the economic zone still paying tax breaks for decades, Oldham thinks businesses away from the region will also benefit….

“there’s a thought among some that feel that it might not impact northern Wisconsin as the southern part of the state. Their supply needs are so huge that it will have a rippling effect throughout the entire state…..”

As for the project itself, the Associated Press reports that Foxconn’s general contractor is committed to making the majority of the construction being done by Wisconsin companies with a specific percentage of the work done by companies from Racine County.

The construction management team wants 60 percent of the project to be done by Wisconsin companies. The Kenosha News says general contractor Gilbane is calling for 10 percent of the subcontractors to be based in Racine County and 10 percent to be female-, minority- or veteran-owned businesses.

With the company pledging to spend $10 billion and create 13,000 jobs (or more) in order to receive $3 billion in state incentives, they’re going to need a lot of assistance from state businesses to achieve its goals. All of which means that as construction finally begins on the site, that money spent will cascade down to Wisconsin companies. Amounts which could be life-altering for small businesses used to small commercial and residential jobs.

For Foxconn to begin advertising their need for help from state businesses showcases what many of the project’s advocates have been saying from the get-go: this project will not just benefit the area of the state closest to the plant, but businesses located hundreds of miles away from it as well.