In 1983, the Racine County Economic Development was established to be the first point of contact for businesses considering a location in Racine County, as well as to assist existing Racine County companies with expansion projects.

RCEDC’s mission was to increase the tax base of Racine County and its municipalities and create employment opportunities for its residents. Under the leadership of a 30-member board of directors, and through the efforts of a small yet passionate staff, hundreds of Racine County companies have been provided financial and technical assistance to support their growth projects.

On average, RCEDC completes 25 business expansion and recruitment projects each year. This year, we have not only continued our work around these projects, we’ve also had the opportunity to play a role in the largest economic development project our county, region and state has ever seen: Foxconn.

Last month, we announced that Foxconn had selected the Village of Mount Pleasant as the site for its $10 billon investment — the soon-to-be future home of a 20 million square foot campus, employing thousands of full-time professionals.

In addition, it is estimated that Foxconn will have more than 150 supplier companies supporting its manufacturing needs. RCEDC and its partners are working together to make sure Racine County companies have an opportunity to compete for these opportunities. Additionally, Foxconn’s one-time and on-going impacts are estimated to include 10,000 construction jobs and thousands of full-time jobs resulting in billions of dollars in new labor income. This will provide increased buying power to benefit Racine County’s retailers, restaurants, service companies and more.

Though the October announcement was unprecedented in scope and size, it was only the beginning. We’ve already started to see the ripple effect. At RCEDC, we are aware of, and in many cases involved in, several projects resulting from the Foxconn announcement. We’re hearing from supplier companies interested in locating in Racine County, existing companies who are now planning expansions, new housing developments, land speculation, business park expansions and more.

Foxconn’s investment will change the course of our County, and it has been and should be celebrated. However, there are challenges, too, and we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t acknowledge them and put the necessary plans in place to overcome them.

As we’ve been out in the community talking to existing employers, we’ve heard the same response: “This is great news, but …” Often that “but” has to do with existing businesses’ ability to attract talent and fill open positions.

To address this challenge, RCEDC has been working with Racine County leadership to develop new programs. In 2018, Racine County will embark on a national talent recruitment effort. Coupled with this talent recruitment program will be new marketing to encourage people to move to, work in and patronize Racine County.

In addition to these recruitment-focused efforts, Racine County will be funding a new loan program to support Racine County companies that need to invest in equipment or other resources to be a Foxconn supplier. This loan fund will help ensure that Racine County’s existing companies benefit from Foxconn’s investment.

Our work has just begun. As the Mount Pleasant Village Board and Racine County Board consider the necessary actions to move the Foxconn project forward, at RCEDC, we’re gearing up for a time of economic prosperity unlike any our country has ever seen.

Jenny Trick is executive director of Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC).

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