Foxconn on the Chippewa

Article corrected to reflect which facility will go in which building.

The big news in the Chippewa business world yesterday was that Foxconn is opening two facilities in Eau Claire. The immense electronics manufacturer is purchasing the former Wells-Fargo bank building at 204 Grand Avenue,  and space on the first floor of the Haymarket Landing development. The space in Yaymarket will be used primarily as an innovation center, developing new technology revolving around Foxconn's planned 8K display screens.

Apparent plans for the Wells-Fargo  space include using it as a technnology incubator center, giving local tech entrepreneurs a place to grow. In total the two spaces are projected to employ as many as 150. This will make Foxconn a player in downtown Eau Claire, though far from the largest downtown employer. 

The move was largely kept under wraps, and it's not clear that the two real estate deals have actually closed yet. The move was teased by Governor Walker during the last of his very many recent visits to the Chippewa Valley. Many local government officials learned of the plans during the closed event in Phoenix Park yesterday morning.

Although many are welcoming Foxconn to the area (particularly since this particular part of their Wisconsin presence will not involve government subsidies) there was a group of protesters at the announcement, and many have been opposing the move in social media. Concerns mostly revolve around the broken promises Foxconn has made in other parts of the country, and ongoing concerns about the large tax rebates being offered for the main manufacturing facilites. Other issues have been raised by having an outside company take over considerable real estate in the downtown during a period when the character and development of the city has been dominated by local companies and developers. This has been particularly contentious with the Haymarket site, which many hoped would become a thriving center of local artisans and restaurants.

Acting City Council President Andrew Werthmann made a statement on Facebook shortly after the announcement decrying the lack of information being provided to the city:

Foxconn made an announcement today that they bought two properties​ in downtown Eau Claire and project to create 150 jobs. However, besides the press conference, they have not submitted any detailed plans to city leaders, they have not specified what the wages will be, and at this time we do not know if there will be any other economic or environmental impacts to our community.

Given Foxconn's track record of promising jobs and then pulling out, demanding huge tax breaks while our state defunds roads and education, polluting the environment and trampling labor and human rights, if this thing actually moves forward in Eau Claire it's on all of us to stand up and make sure that they keep to the values that make our community great.

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Published on

July 17, 2018

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