By Evan Casey | Wisconsin Public Radio
A new Microsoft data center could soon be coming to a site originally intended for the Foxconn development in Mount Pleasant.
The plans were announced following a closed session of the Mount Pleasant Village Board meeting on Monday. Microsoft is looking to purchase 315 acres for $50 million and invest $1 billion in the overall project.
Village President Dave DeGroot said staff and consultants have been searching for a company to use the land for a year. That’s after original plans from Foxconn to invest $10 billion on a large flat-screen manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant never came to full fruition.
“The potential benefits for the village cannot be overstated,” DeGroot said about the announcement Monday. He said local investments transformed the area and “equipped it with the infrastructure necessary to support a major investment by Microsoft.”
Microsoft, based in Seattle, has more than 200 data centers globally.
“Today’s announcement is just the start of our mutual collaboration and Microsoft’s long-term commitment to the local community,” Paul Englis, the company’s director of community engagement, said in a press release.
It’s not yet clear how many people could be employed at the facility. A spokesperson for Microsoft did not reply to a reporter’s request for comment Tuesday.
Scott Schanke, a professor of information technology management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said he believes the center will likely employ less than 100 people. Even so, he called the announcement a “big win” for the state and region.
Missy Hughes, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said she believes Microsoft will be encouraged to expand across the state once they arrive in Mount Pleasant. The project still needs approvals from the village and Racine County, but construction could begin later this year.
“I have no doubt that once they’re here, and they’ve got their feet on the ground, they will continue to look for opportunities to expand their presence here,” Hughes said.
Schanke said the facility will mainly house computer and networking systems. “They’re sort of the centralized area for organizations to manage their data or serve applications that users interact with,” he said.
The announcement about the plan comes as Microsoft and other technology companies have been cutting back. In January, the company announced it was laying off 10,000 employees, about 5 percent of its workforce.
The development will be in Tax Incremental District 5, located on the western side of the village, next to Interstate 94. Foxconn Technology Group, Ashley Capital and Endeavor Development own properties on the 3,900-acre district.
Foxconn’s initial plans to employ 13,000 people in Mount Pleasant were radically downsized, leaving local leaders searching for new ways to use the land originally intended for the project.
“Village, county and state officials planned for a long-term future to accommodate development and investment by a variety of companies,” Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said. “We have presented a tremendous opportunity for companies, like Microsoft, to invest.”
In response to the news, Foxconnn released a statement to WPR which said it welcomed the company.
“The collaboration with Microsoft and local government demonstrates Foxconn’s partnership with others to further the goals and intentions of creating a science and technology hub,” the statement said.
Foxconn has recently said they have over 1,000 employees working in Wisconsin. The company qualified for state subsidies for its Mount Pleasant development last year, bringing the total amount it has received from the state up to about $37.4 million.
Most recently, We Energies and Foxconn announced a new partnership to bring a roughly 2,000-panel solar project to Mount Pleasant, which would generate enough energy to power about 300 homes.
But some local opponents to the Foxconn plans are running against village board members in the spring primary. They’re hoping to unset board members — including DeGroot — who have been vocal supports of the project.
This story was produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and is being republished by permission. See the original story here.