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Foxconn debuts downtown Milwaukee headquarters and talks jobs, but will it benefit everyone?

Posted: 7:00 PM, Jun 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-16 00:00:39Z

Foxconn put up its company sign outside its new North American corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee Friday.

Foxconn bought the building, 611 East Wisconsin Avenue, at the corner of Wisconsin and Van Buren from Northwestern Mutual. It’s next to the U.S. Bank Building and across the street from Northwestern Mutual’s commons and tower. 

The building is expected to house more than 500 Foxconn employees and provide support for the new plant being built in Mt. Pleasant.

There will be displays of Foxconn products and technology and an innovation center for local start-up companies and entrepreneurs. 

Foxconn leaders say they will be seeking proposals from local contractors, architects and engineers to revamp the building into its high-tech home base. Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, says the company is not opposed to the idea of adding on to the building to make it a skyscraper.

Woo says he now calls Milwaukee home. 

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says this is a huge step for the county.

“We live in an era where cities measure themselves by being home to corporate headquarters’,” he said. “This is a gain of an enormous international company. A brand new industry that does not exist in this state. Thirteen thousand jobs to start, and billions of dollars worth of investment in Milwaukee and Racine Counties.”

But how do we make sure it benefits everyone?

“If we don't have a very intentional way of being able to connect people form the central city, and north and south sides to the opportunities being provided right now, then we'll still miss the boat,” says Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says Foxconn leaders have gotten a tour of downtown, but not of central-city neighborhoods, or the north and south side yet.

“I think our challenge now is how do we get jobs for people throughout the city of Milwaukee, including neighborhoods that have fallen behind,” he says. “This will bring a lot of jobs, not just high-tech jobs. This is just the beginning of the relationship. We hope to introduce Foxconn to a variety of neighborhood leaders and organizations.”

“We will be focusing on what we need most, which is building a strong environment for business,” Woo adds. “We will be needing all kinds of people and all kinds of help to make this corporate ecosystem work. Acknowledging a company is only as strong as the entire city it calls home."