RACINE — Foxconn Technology Group on Tuesday announced plans to open an innovation center in Downtown Racine, where the company plans to work with community partners to develop and implement “smart city” innovations.
Standing between the three-story building and the river, Foxconn and its government partners announced the coming Foxconn Place Racine and Wisconn Valley Innovation Center at 1 Main St.
The 46,000-square-foot building is planned to house at least 125 Foxconn employees, Alan Yeung, Foxconn’s director of U.S. strategic initiatives, told an audience of between 100 and 200 people who gathered for the announcement.
“This building will encompass a state-of-the-art co-working space but also become a model for smart city pilot programs that will take advantage of and leverage all of the technologies Foxconn will build and enable in Wisconsin,” Yeung said.
Yeung said Foxconn believes that its technologies will “catalyze and inspire next-generation ideas in enhancing quality of life, living spaces and working environments. We invite the community, through public-private partnerships, to join and partner with Foxconn to strengthen public safety, public infrastructure, transportation networks and energy sustainability.”
“Many of you may wonder why a Foxconn Place Racine and Wisconn Valley Innovation Center less than 10 miles from Mount Pleasant where we are building a beautiful, 3,000-acre Wisconsin Valley Science and Technology Park?” he said. Grinning broadly, Yeung answered the question. “It is kind of difficult to build a smart city without a city.”
The city and county of Racine are an ideal place for Foxconn to implement smart-city innovations, Yeung added.
“Foxconn’s purchase of One Main Centre is in line with our continued efforts to create a vibrant environment in Wisconsin for smart city solutions that will revolutionize how we live, work and play,” Yeung said.
He did not say where the building’s current commercial tenants — primarily BMO Harris Bank, Baird (a wealth management firm), Fluid Consultants and Warren Eye Care — will end up. A Foxconn representative later said that news will be released next week.
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Mayor Cory Mason said the site for Foxconn Place Racine is perfect because of its history, first as a place where French voyageurs came to trade furs, and later as a manufacturing sector “where at one time this area and the City of Racine had more patents per capita than any other place in the country. This is a place that knows how to do innovation.”
This will allow the City of Racine to be the laboratory for smart-city technology and their application in the real world, Mason said.
“So, this center will allow us to develop technologies to apply here in the city to improve the lives of our residents around workability, livability, equity and sustainability,” he said. “There’s more to come, in the weeks to come, about what that means, but I think people are going to be very surprised and impressed with what we have ahead of us.”
“You can’t underestimate what the ripple effects of this announcement will be to the Downtown,” Mason added.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said, “I think you understand why we in Racine County, the Village of Mount Pleasant, the City of Racine and all of our municipalities worked so hard to get Foxconn in Racine County. This is just another bonus that we are going to enjoy for a long time.”
He said the new Downtown center, along with the $10 billion Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park, “will position Racine County as the epicenter … for technology and innovation not just in the state — but in the Midwest.”
The work that will be done at Foxconn Place Racine and Wisconn Valley will benefit both taxpayers and businesses, Delagrave said, and “has the potential to change our lives on a day-to-day basis.”
Racine as future smart-city leader
In addition to Foxconn’s Wisconn Valley project in Mount Pleasant and its North American corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Foxconn is building a talent and innovation network across Wisconsin that includes Foxconn Place Chippewa Valley in Eau Claire, Foxconn Place Green Bay and Foxconn Place Milwaukee.
Also speaking Tuesday outside One Main Place were Mark Hogan, the secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. — who said economic development is most successful when it is led at the local and regional levels — and Ellen Nowak, the secretary of the state Department of Administration.
In her previous job with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, Nowak said, the PSC in the past few years would talk about what it meant to have smart cities. When she attended conferences about smart cities, “they always brought in people from Kansas City and San Diego to talk about what they’re doing. And I thought, ‘Someday they’re going to bring in people from Racine to show other cities around the country what they’ve done to make a smart city.’ ”
“You can’t underestimate what the ripple effects of this announcement will be to the Downtown.” Racine Mayor Cory Mason
“You can’t underestimate what the ripple effects of this announcement will be to the Downtown.”
Racine Mayor Cory Mason