Mount Pleasant approves Microsoft deal for data centers on Foxconn land

Racine County Board still needs to vote on approvals

Kim Mahoney's home near Foxconn
A drone photo taken on July 1, 2019 captures a single house on Prairie View Drive that remains in a former subdivision of 13 properties. Most property owners sold to the village of Mount Pleasant, Wis., and their homes have been demolished to make way for the Foxconn plant. A building on the Foxconn site and the Foxconn construction area are seen in the background. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

Six years after Foxconn announced plans to invest $9 billion for a massive development in Mount Pleasant, village officials approved a new deal Monday to allow Microsoft to purchase more than 1,000 acres originally intended for the company.

Proponents of the plans say the project, which will include at least four data centers, comes with numerous benefits for the community. But it’ll likely include only a fraction of the 13,000 jobs that Foxconn promised the community in 2017.

During a village board meeting Monday, Mount Pleasant Village Board President Dave DeGroot said he was excited that Microsoft was coming to the community after Foxconn’s investment and original plans dwindled over the years.

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“We are now at a point to see this mega site utilized to its full potential,” DeGroot said. “We didn’t get there quite the way that we thought we would — we still got there.”

A glass globe on Foxconn's campus.
Cars are parked near a globe at the Foxconn campus Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Microsoft, which has over 300 data centers in 34 countries, is also guaranteeing a minimum assessed value of $1.4 billion by Jan. 1, 2028. Earlier in the year, they announced plans to invest $1 billion to build a data center on 315 acres in Mount Pleasant. The company broke ground on that center in September.

Ritu Raju, the president and CEO of Gateway Technical College, said the company is already working with the college to align its curriculum with the company’s needs.

“We anticipate that Microsoft will need many technicians to do the data work,” Raju said.

She also said the company is building a prototype of a data center at one of its colleges, which gives students and the public a chance to view how a data center works.

“This provides not only Gateway students but our community with an outstanding opportunity to understand more about this high-tech development,” she added.

Matt Montemurro, the president and CEO of Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce, said he believes the deal will have a “generational benefit” for the area. The data centers will house thousands of computer servers and will create construction jobs for the community as well.

“What we’ve seen in a few short months is a fast moving, highly effective and beneficial company, make good on its intentions and even better, recognize an opportunity to expand on its investment and impact here in Mount Pleasant and throughout Racine County and our region,” Montemurro said during the meeting.

Orange barricades and cones block off a parking lot in front of a large building.
A parking lot is blocked off at the Foxconn campus Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The company also plans to invest $4.2 million to restore 1.5 miles of Lamparek Creek, $100,000 for water restoration efforts throughout the county and $200,000 to support education efforts in science, technology, engineering and math.

“This isn’t just about computers and fancy network wires, it’s about a dynamic collaboration that will propel Mount Pleasant into the future,” said Lee Jaramillo with Northterra Real Estate Group in Racine.

Foxconn originally said it would invest $9 billion at the site and employ 13,000. Microsoft hasn’t publicly said how many people could be employed at the data centers, but similar data centers employ around 300 to 400 people per building.

“I think that the community is thrilled that Microsoft is coming in the first place, irrespective of the jobs,” DeGroot said after the meeting.

When asked if he’s concerned about the number of jobs Foxconn promised compared to the number of jobs Microsoft will likely bring to the community, DeGroot said of that discussion, “I think that we’ve way moved on beyond that.”

Microsoft, which will pay $100 million for the land, must build at least four data centers on the site under the agreement with the village. The project comes with no public financial incentives for the company and no new infrastructure from the village or Racine County. The deal will also help the village close a tax incremental district created for Foxconn earlier than anticipated.

The Mount Pleasant Village Board unanimously approved the land sale and development agreements needed for the project Monday night. The Racine County Board will vote on similar approvals Tuesday night.

Jim Paetsch, the vice president of Milwaukee 7, the regional economic development entity for southeastern Wisconsin, said he believes as Microsoft develops its data centers, it’ll positively impact the village in more ways than one.

“You can sort of start to see the economic impact that that starts to have, not just from an economic development perspective, but also from a property tax perspective,” he said.

Mount Pleasant Village Board Member Ram Bhatia also said the company being in Mount Pleasant will benefit not just the village, but the whole region and state as well.

“This is just elevating the whole region,” he said about the project. “This would be the envy of every other state.”

When the purchase is complete, Microsoft will own 1,346 acres in Tax Incremental District 5, which was created for Foxconn in 2017. The village may now be able to close that district, or retire its debt obligations, seven to 14 years earlier than anticipated.