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Looking for local impact of Foxconn; Sec. Nowak says expect 'ripple effect'

Wisconsin Department of Administration Sec. Ellen Nowak speaks about the upcoming Foxconn development during an event at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond on Thursday, Oct. 25. Nowak addressed how the development will impact local communities throughout the state. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia

Ripple effects from the planned $10 billion Foxconn development in Mount Pleasant could be seen across the state, and in western Wisconsin, Wisconsin Department of Administration Sec. Ellen Nowak said in visits to technical colleges in River Falls and New Richmond this week.

Speaking at Chippewa Valley Technical College and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Nowak said the biggest impact will come in supply chains.

"This is the ripple effect that we expect to see," she said.

Foxconn, a tech company that designs components for smartphones and will make advanced displays at the Wisconsin facility, plans to spend $1.4 billion in annual supplier purchases from Wisconsin companies, Nowak said.

"There's no way that that's just going to stay down there," she said.

Nowak said the multi-million square foot development will bring 13,000 jobs to the state by 2022, not counting indirect jobs that often develop after large investments within an area and state. As seen in other states when large companies located there, Nowak said Foxconn jobs will generate new jobs in other industries and draw new businesses to the area.

"We expect to see other companies either decide to locate here in Wisconsin or expand in Wisconsin because of Foxconn being here," she said.

Foxconn is taking a Wisconsin first approach, Nowak said, with a majority of work planned to be done by Wisconsin businesses.

Currently 90 percent of the contracts awarded went to Wisconsin companies, Nowak said, with only 1 percent of total project contracts awarded. They are from 26 counties and 68 communities, though currently only a few in western Wisconsin, and none in St. Croix or Pierce counties.

The current workforce, now on site for construction, is 95 percent from Wisconsin, with 3,000 workers from the state, Nowak said; a handful of workers are from this region.

"These numbers are just going to explode and hopefully that map is all red in the future," Nowak said, referencing a map with red symbols showing workers' zip codes.

Nowak said Foxconn is currently accepting bids on several aspects of the first phase of the project, and plans to open more in the near future. Interested companies can sign up to be notified about bid openings, and attend pre-bid meetings before making a bid.

Attendants of the New Richmond event said they wanted to find out what sort of impact the development could have here.

"We're just looking for the economic impact it's going to have on our side of the state as well as how we can tap into, perhaps, potential opportunities," said Andrea Jorgenson, community service manager at Xcel Energy.

In terms of specific impacts on western Wisconsin, Nowak said the development is still in the early stages.

"I would just always say stay tuned," Nowak said.

Beckah Whitlock, executive director of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, said she was focused on the details of the project to see how to connect the local area and businesses to it.

"It's not like we're going to be commuting every day," Whitlock said. "so how can we connect some of our small and medium-sized and large-sized businesses to opportunities that will help them grow?"

Pam Brunclik, associate dean of WITC, said she was interested to see how WITC could be involved in creating a workforce for Foxconn employment as well as for the state overall.

"We have a lot of programs that feed into the Foxconn need but also additional needs of our area businesses and our local economy as well as the statewide economy," Brunclik said.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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