Waiting for Foxconn

Posted on Jan 2, 2018 :: Up Front
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

TOM PETTY ONCE SANG that the waiting is the hardest part. Northeast Wisconsin manufacturers are experiencing that firsthand these days as they eagerly await details on the estimated $1.4 billion in materials and services Foxconn Technology Group will need each year from Wisconsin companies. A recent meeting with company officials only intensified the angst.

“In the next few months, I hope to be able to come back and spend more time with you and bring more colleagues with me, so we can talk partnership and opportunity,” Alan Yeung, Foxconn’s director of U.S. strategic initiatives, said during a presentation last month to members of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance.

“We see this area, this region, playing a vital role, not only for Wisconsin but for the Upper Midwest.”

Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturing service provider and is in the early stages of constructing a $10 billion, 13,000-employee manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant.

A 1984 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Yeung’s speech included some nostalgia for his time spent studying in Madison and some general observations about the quality of the workforce and economic factors that drew the company to Wisconsin. Details about a planned “Foxconn Day,” an event for potential supply chain partners that would take place in the Green Bay area, were scarce. Yeung said site plans and finalizing financial arrangements have dominated the company’s focus the past few months.

New North Executive Director Jerry Murphy said his organization and others are working to fill in the details as rapidly and thoroughly as possible. The meeting is anticipated for early 2018.

New North and NEWMA expect to coordinate the event, providing details how regional companies can compete for Foxconn’s business.

“All the folks figuring out how to make that connection … hopefully, we’ll be able to pull together enough content to do that,” Murphy said.

To produce liquid crystal displays at its new Wisconsin facility, Foxconn will need large amounts of water, chemicals and glass. However, it also will need other materials and specialized services to deliver the end-product to market.

New North has been a leader in helping companies position themselves as supply chain partners for Foxconn. The organization’s online Supply Chain Marketplace tool has been adopted as a statewide tool and even includes a section just for potential Foxconn suppliers.

The tool is free to business across the state at wisupplychainmarketplace. com. Gov. Scott Walker and other state officials have been promoting the tool at recent appearances around the state.

“We can always tell when the governor mentions it by the number of visits we get to the web page,” Murphy says.