Foxconn Expanding Its Innovation Network To Downtown Eau Claire

Foxconn Announces It's Opening Foxconn Place Chippewa Valley

Foxconn Director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives Alan Yeung at a press conference
Foxconn Director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives Alan Yeung announces the company will purchase two buildings in downtown Eau Claire for a company research technology hub and a business incubator. Yeung said Foxconn the development will lead to 150 jobs in Eau Claire. The company hopes to acquire the two buildings by the end of 2018 with operations beginning in early 2019. Rich Kremer/WPR

Foxconn Technology Group is opening up another innovation hub in Wisconsin, this time in downtown Eau Claire.

The Taiwanese tech giant will purchase two downtown properties for what the company is calling the Foxconn Place Chippewa Valley.

The first of the properties will make up 15,000 square feet — or nearly the whole first floor — of the Haymarket Landing building, which is part of the public-private downtown redevelopment project called the Confluence Project. Foxconn also plans to purchase The Grand, a 43,000-square-foot, six-story office building built in 1929, according to the governor.

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At least 150 high-tech jobs are expected to be created through the project, according to officials. Foxconn Director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives Alan Yeung said the Haymarket space will be used for researching new and emerging technologies.

“We hope to use that as an innovation center to develop, to test software, firmware for next generation AI, AK, 5G solutions, which is part of the plan for Foxconn to invest in Wisconsin in the United States creating a technology hub with Wisconsin at the center of that vision,” said Yeung.

The Grand location will house a business incubator. Yeung said this will be used to bring high-skill, tech-savy people to Foxconn but also to help small businesses in the region grow. Foxconn officials say they will move in to the buildings by early next year.

“We’re going to actually foster, we’re going to actually encourage both talent but also entrepreneurship,” said Yeung. “We all know Foxconn cannot do it alone. We like to partner with big companies but also like to partner with small and medium sized enterprises.”

One of the goals of the innovation centers is to attract and keep talent in the state while supporting entrepreneurship and developing state-of-the-art technology that could benefit multiple industries such as entertainment and health care.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and Gov. Scott Walker have pledged that the tech company will benefit the entire state economically, not just southeastern Wisconsin. The company is building a new 20-million-square-foot, $10 billion display screen manufacturing campus in the Village of Mount Pleasant in Racine County.

Earlier this year, Foxconn purchased a downtown Milwaukee building from Northwestern Mutual to house its North America corporate headquarters, as well as the headquarters of the company’s innovation network in the state.

Eau Claire resident Ben Orlikowski was among a small group of protesters standing near the site of the Foxconn announcement. He said the company’s manufacturing facility in the Village of Mount Pleasant will destroy natural resources and exploit workers from Wisconsin. Also, he said he’s worried Foxconn’s presence in Eau Claire could be a drain on the local workforce.

“It sounds like they’re looking to pull workers out of this area to recruit them to go work on the other side of the state, which is damaging to our local workforce because we depend on our local workers to help out our community here,” said Orlikowski.

Walker, who was a keynote speaker of the Foxconn announcement in Eau Claire, said the protesters will come around once the company grows in the state.

“It’s a political season. So, if I say, ‘The sky is blue,’ they’ll say, ‘It’s red.’ I mean, that’s just the reality,” said Walker. “It’s politics. I think by next year when people see these jobs, see these opportunities here and across the state people, overwhelmingly, regardless of party or politics are going to be thrilled that Foxconn is here and growing.”

Local officials including University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt were excited to have such a large company stake a claim in the city. In a press release, Schmidt said having Foxconn right downtown will lead to collaborations between Foxconn and the university.

“Eau Claire is a great place for Foxconn’s newest innovation center — and Haymarket Landing, one of many UW-Eau Claire innovative partnerships and student residences, provides a vibrant hub for students, faculty and Foxconn employees to connect and create together,” said Schmidt. “UW-Eau Claire has long been an economic driver for western Wisconsin, providing talented graduates in everything from health care to high-tech. We are excited to be a partner with Foxconn in exploring together a ‘smart future’ for the Chippewa Valley and for Wisconsin.”

The announcement Monday comes less than a month after Foxconn and Walker announced the Taiwanese company is opening an innovation center at the WaterMark building in downtown Green Bay along the Fox River by later this year. There, Foxconn plans to employ at least 200.

Walker said the additional Foxconn sites are part of the “Wisconsin Foxconn Bonus.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional information at 12:55 p.m. Monday, July 16, 2018.