Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday morning that Foxconn Technology Group will obtain two properties in downtown Eau Claire. Foxconn has reached an agreement to purchase The Grand, a six-story office building located at 204 E. Grand Ave. The company will also buy or lease 15,000 square feet of the first floor of Haymarket Landing, 220 Eau Claire St. This represents just under half of the roughly 34,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor of the building.
The Grand, formerly a Wells Fargo Bank, will be used to house a laboratory for technological solutions, while the Haymarket Landing space – which will overlook Eau Claire Street and Haymarket Plaza – will serve as an innovation center that will be part of a talent network, according to a Foxconn press release. The company expects to create 150 jobs to support these efforts.
Foxconn and Commonweal Development began discussion of the technology corporation's temporary occupation of Haymarket Landing last month, according to Commonweal President Stuart Schaefer. Further discussions will determine whether Foxconn will purchase or lease the space.
Finding tenants for the bottom floor of Haymarket Landing has been a challenge for Commonweal due to continuous construction in the area. “We always thought we’d be able to get sort of a large restaurant usage or many restaurants into that space, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Schaefer said. “Given a year or two, with the bridge and the plaza and the Confluence finished, we think that people and businesses will have the confidence to go into that space. ... As of yet, we haven’t found that, so we’re happy to make use of that space in the short term.”
JCap Real Estate, the company that owns The Grand, has been working with Foxconn for several months to arrange this purchase and prepare the building for its future tenants, JCap President Brian Johnson said.“I think it’s great!” he said of Foxconn’s move into downtown Eau Claire and the jobs it is expected to bring. “It’s going to add to this energy in downtown Eau Claire.”
“Eau Claire is a great place for Foxconn’s newest Innovation Center – and Haymarket Landing, one of many UW-Eau Claire innovative partnerships and student residences, provides a vibrant hub for students, faculty, and Foxconn employees to connect and create together,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James C. Schmidt said. “UW-Eau Claire has long been an economic driver for Western Wisconsin, providing talented graduates in everything from healthcare to high-tech. We are excited to be a partner with Foxconn in exploring together a ‘smart future’ for the Chippewa Valley and for Wisconsin.”
“Foxconn’s investment in the Chippewa Valley is great news for the region and the entire state as the company continues to demonstrate how its presence in Wisconsin will truly be transformational,” said Mark Hogan, Secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “From the day Foxconn announced it had chosen Wisconsin as the site for its campus, we have talked about the ripple effect that decision would have throughout the state. Today we are again experiencing that ripple effect here in west-central Wisconsin.”
The move to invest in locations in Eau Claire is part of a multibillion-dollar project to establish a Foxconn production facility in the Racine County village of Mount Pleasant in southeastern Wisconsin. Walker promised the company up to $4.5 billion in tax incentives to build the $10 billion factory and create a predicted 13,000 jobs in the state.
Many public officials and citizens disapprove of the plan, saying that the payoff to Wisconsin and its residents will be too little for such a large benefit to Foxconn. Protesters waved signs that read “No Foxconn, No Walker,” at the announcement location in Phoenix Park.
Others, including Andrew Werthmann, acting president of the Eau Claire City Council, have reservations about Foxconn itself.
“Our community has a set of values, and we need to hold them accountable to it,” he said.“It can’t be lost in this discussion that (Foxconn has) a horrible human rights record, they have a horrible environmental record, they have a horrible labor record. And so, knowing all that, I think it’s on us both as community leaders and as a community to make sure that they are held accountable to the kinds of values that we hold dear.”