Foxconn Gets Approval for Wisconsin Plans, Starts Construction
Foxconn this week submitted plans for construction of its first major manufacturing facility at its Wisconn Valley complex and received a recommendation for approval by the Mount Pleasant village Plan Commission. The company also saw a leadership change this week, with Chairman Terry Gou stepping down to focus on his campaign for President in Taiwan.
As part of work conducted for the Department of Administration for the state of Wisconsin, I received a 49-page packet of plans submitted by Foxconn to the village of Mount Pleasant. Some of the pages are marked “Foxconn Confidential – Trade Secret”, and while I believe that the act of submitting these plans to the village invalidates the claim of confidentiality, in the interest of caution I will not show anything from those pages. However, some of the artist renderings of the plant have already been published by media outlets in Wisconsin, including this one:
As indicated in the illustration, the building will have loading and unloading docks on the east side, with parking for employees on the north side. The drawings indicate that the building will be set back by about a quarter mile (400 meters) from Braun Road, which forms the northern boundary of the area designated for the Wisconn Valley complex, and more than a third of a mile (500 meters) from Highway H, which forms the eastern boundary.
The documents describe plans for 993,460 square feet (92,328 square meters) of floor space for manufacturing and offices, on a footprint of 855,012 square feet (79,462 square meters), as about 150,000 square feet will include a second floor, primarily for offices.
The document also indicates that the facility will have a parking lot with 550 spaces. Based on typical commuting rates in the US, this would be consistent with employment of about 600 people if the plant was running a single shift operation, or 900-1000 people if the plant was running 2 or 3 shifts (the second shift needs to arrive before the first shift leaves). Foxconn has indicated that it plans to employ 1500-1800 people at the site.
The Milwaukee BizTimes reported an additional statement from Foxconn on its plans for the facility: “As part of its long-term investment in Wisconsin, Foxconn’s Gen6 advanced manufacturing facility will produce LCD technology integral to many vertical industries at the leading edge of growth and advancement in coming years, including automotive, computer, consumer electronics, medical/health care, and aerospace.” This leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
One aspect of the facility drawings I found curious. The drawings show a wavy line running from north to south through the building, labeled “Sub Continental Divide”. This geographical feature divides the drainage areas of the Mississippi River basin from the Great Lakes (and St. Lawrence River) basin, and therefore literally defines the peak of the local landscape, though you would hardly call it a peak in the flat Wisconsin farmland. Nevertheless, it suggests that the complex name of “Wisconn Valley” would be more properly labeled “Wisconn Summit”.
In other developments:
- Foxconn announced that it has begun pouring concrete foundations and footings for the plant, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The Journal Sentinel also reported that Foxconn paid $9.5 million to purchase an office building in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, which it said in April it would buy. Madison is about 90 miles (144km) west of the Mount Pleasant campus.
- Foxconn shareholders on June 21 elected a new chairman, Young Liu, who succeeded founder Terry Gou. Gou stepped down to pursue a candidacy for President of Taiwan, but remains on the board of directors of the company. An article in Digitimes describes Liu as a multiple entrepreneur and executive of Foxconn’s semiconductor business.
- New chairman Liu said that the company has no plan to increase production capacity outside of China, as reported by Reuters. The chairman said he was not aware of client requests to shift part of production outside of China, which seems to be at odds with reports that Apple is looking to do exactly that (see separate story this issue). The new chairman faces a delicate balancing act to manage the company in the midst of a US-China trade conflict, as Foxconn is the largest private employer in China, but the US is the largest end-market for the products made at its factories.