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Taxpayers have spent more than $225 million on roads around Foxconn

MOUNT PLEASANT — The year 2019 might be known as the Year of the Orange Barrel as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation prepares to ramp up work on the roads in and around the Foxconn Technology Group development in Mount Pleasant.

“It is going to be a big year for roadway construction,” said Brett Wallace, Foxconn project manager for WisDOT.

Between work done on Interstate 94 in Racine County and the local roads and state highways in the Foxconn area, roughly $225 million has been spend as of the end of January.

And there still is roughly $155.2 million worth of work remaining on local roads and $167.1 million worth of work remaining on Interstate 94.

While it may seem like Racine County and the roads within the Foxconn area are getting most of WisDOT’s attention, Wallace said no other department projects were negatively affected.

“It didn’t delay any other work statewide,” Wallace said.

Wallace said the state had saved roughly $100 million from past projects that were underbid.

For example: If a WisDOT budgeted $10 million for a project and the bid came in at $9 million, the state saved $1 million.

Those savings, Wallace said, along with $66 million in federal highway redistribution funds helped keep other projects around the state to continue progressing.

“Yes we’re taking on this work (in the Foxconn area),” Wallace said. “That money could’ve been used for other projects ... but it has not bumped other projects.”

However breaking down what funds from the federal, state and local government go to which specific project in the Foxconn area can be confusing.

Local roads and state highways

According to an open records request, the state, along with Mount Pleasant and Racine County, have spent $106.9 million on state highways such as Highway H, KR, 11 and the construction of Wisconn Valley Way. Those funds spent also include work done on Braun Road and 90th Street.

So far seven construction contracts have been awarded along with construction oversight contracts.

When the local road projects are completed, it’s estimated the state would have spent more than $221 million, and Racine County and Mount Pleasant would have spent $31.5 million. There is $9.6 million of federal funding used on these projects for a total of $262.1 million.

According to the agreement signed by the state, Racine County and Mount Pleasant, the county will pay the state $11.5 million once the tax incremental district, which is within the Foxconn property, is closed.

As of the end of January, there is roughly $155.2 million worth of work estimated left on the local projects, of which $146.9 million is state funded.

“It’s like nothing we’ve taken on in the past,” Wallace said of all the work WisDOT is doing in the county.

Although most of the work centers on the roads, there is $82.8 million in payments for wetland mitigation and $24.1 million for design resources.

Work on I-94

Since the mid-2000s, WisDOT has been working on making I-94 four lanes on each the north and south bound lanes.

Over the years the biennial budget has chipped away at the work on I-94, which Wallace calls “a bonafide federal mega-project” but Foxconn has moved it up on the priority list.

“Clearly the development helped accelerate getting that back on schedule,” Wallace said. “And it needed to get done.”

the I-94 project is on pace to be completed 11 years ahead of schedule.

The state has already spent $116.6 million on I-94, just in Racine County, and when the project is completed WisDOT will have spent $283.7 million on the project.

In 2018, the state did receive $160 million from the federal government in the form of an INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) grant. It was the second highest grant the federal government gave for transportation project, and the highest amount the state has ever received.

“At the end of 2019 there’s going to be a big relief with the freeway, quite a bit of development road work done, but there is carryover work into 2020 and then (Highway) KR really all the way into 2022,” Wallace said.

“It’s like nothing we’ve taken on in the past.” Brett Wallace, WisDOT’s Foxconn project manager

Jacquet Midwest backs out of $12 million deal at Southside Industrial Park

RACINE — Jacquet Midwest has canceled its plans for a $12 million, two-phase relocation to the still-vacant Southside Industrial Park.

Jacquet dropped its plan in January to expand into Southside, the former Jacobsen-Textron manufacturing site, and notified city officials the same month, company CEO and Manager Dan Chatterton said. Jacquet was to have become the largest landowner in the industrial park which was finished in 2009.

In July, Mayor Cory Mason and Jacquet officials held a news conference on the grounds of Southside to announce the would-be relocation to the industrial park. Jacquet would have been Southside’s first commercial tenant.

Jacquet (“zha-KAY”) was set to buy a total of about 10.25 acres, including parking, of the park’s approximately 14 acres from the city for $250,000.

The company planned to initially build a 54,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, an investment of $6 million. In addition, Jacquet was to invest close to $2 million in new equipment, most of that in phase one. The company hoped to start preliminary construction activities last September or October and move into its new manufacturing building this year.

Instead, Jacquet decided to go in “another direction,” Chatterton said Thursday. The company will still expand, but it won’t happen at Southside, he said.

“The future’s a little unknown,” Chatterton said. “We will do an expansion at some point.” He said he hopes that expansion will occur somewhere in the Racine area, for the sake of the employees, and he has not ruled out the City of Racine.

City Development Director Amy Connolly said Jacquet was in its due diligence phase when it opted not to proceed. Either party could have canceled the deal at that point, she said.

Jacquet Midwest, a subsidiary of Lyon, France-based Jacquet Metal Service, makes made-to-measure specialty steels such as stainless-steel Quarto plates and nickel alloys, long stainless-steel products, wear-resistant and high-yield steel plates and tool steels. The company currently leases 39,000 square feet of old manufacturing space around the corner from Southside Industrial Park, at 1908 DeKoven Ave.

“Obviously we are disappointed Jacquet walked away from our agreement,” Mason said.

Looking for a new site

Jacquet’s ostensible long-term plan, as of last summer, was for a total of an estimated 109,000 square feet of new manufacturing and inventory space at Southside. The second phase was supposed to include an expansion into high-speed laser cutting, Chatterton said then.

The company, which employed 19 people when the announcement was made, estimated it would add 12 jobs by completion of the second expansion phase.

Jacquet’s purchase of about 10 acres would have left two smaller parcels at Southside, one to the west and one to the south.

“The city cooperated with us at that change of mind, and we appreciate that,” Chatterton said Thursday.

Connolly informed the RDA, which owns Southside Industrial Park, of Jacquet’s reversal at the RDA’s February meeting. According to the minutes of that meeting, Connolly explained that the city received a notice in January that the contract and offer to purchase with Jacquet were canceled.

Connolly also told the RDA that, because of Foxconn, the city may see heightened interest in Southside, and city officials will actively market the site if needed.

The minutes also state that Laura Million of Racine County Economic Development Corp. told the RDA that her organization is working with Jacquet to find a new site in Racine County.

Foxconn expected to have modest impact on Unified's under-18 population growth

RACINE — The population living in the Racine Unified School District is expected to grow by around 24 percent in the next 30 years. However, growth for school-aged children is predicted at about half that rate, even when the impact of the Foxconn development is factored.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the official area-wide planning agency for southeast Wisconsin, warns that predicting specific population counts out to 2050 is not an exact science, but does expect the Foxconn development to impact the number of people living within the School District.

SEWRPC adopted its initial Vision 2050 regional land use and transportation plan for the seven counties it serves — including Racine County — in 2016, but soon had to amend it to take the Foxconn development into consideration.

“We don’t do this in response to every development, in fact we don’t do this in response to nearly any development,” the agency’s executive director, Kevin Muhs told the School Board Monday.

The Foxconn Technology Group development, already underway in southwest Mount Pleasant, has goals of creating 13,000 jobs and making a $10 billion investment in Wisconsin, although the investment and jobs will be spread throughout the state.

Because of the purported size and scale of the Foxconn development, the SEWRPC decided it was necessary to amend its regional land use plan accordingly.

Population increases

Foxconn, if it lives up to its promises, is expected to bring 17,000 more jobs to the area in the next 50 years than SEWRPC initially expected. Those 17,000 include Foxconn jobs as well as other economic development that comes along with it.

“Those 17,000 jobs require about 32,000 residents to fill the jobs, if you assume that people are bringing families and spouses and partners along with them,” Muhs said.

The agency predicts that 33 percent of new households coming to region in the next 30 years to fill Foxconn-related jobs would be located within the Racine Unified School District. That would make for 5,000 households beyond original expectations, or 72,000 household in 2050 compared to 54,000 in 2010.

The original projection was for a 17 percent increase in School District population from 2010 to 2050, but now a 24 percent increase is projected within that time.

There were 139,000 residents living in the district in 2010, and that population is expected to increase to 173,000 in the next 30 years.

These numbers do not necessarily mean that Unified should plan for a huge increase in student enrollment.

“The under-18 population is not expected to increase dramatically between 2010 and 2050,” Muhs said.

If the Foxconn development occurs as promised, SEWRPC predicts that the under-18 population living in the district would grow from around 34,000 in 2010 to 39,000 in 2050.

Prior to the announcement that Foxconn was coming to Mount Pleasant, the agency expected the under-18 development population to decline until around 2025 and to reach around 36,400 in 2050.

“We’re no longer expecting a decline at all in the near future, it should be a moderate increase, an increase that accelerates as the facility is built and ancillary development comes forward,” Muhs said.

Superintendent Eric Gallien said that although immediate growth isn’t expected, it looked as if the school district should plan for growth in the coming years.

Muhs responded that officials in Mount Pleasant are certainly expecting an increase in population.

Muhs added that population increases and corresponding development all depend on the progress of the Foxconn development and what kinds of workers it attracts.

“We don’t know enough at this point to know how many of those jobs are the types of jobs that people will be of the age that they’ll probably be bringing families along or soon to start families,” Muhs said.