By Patty Murray
Wisconsin Public Radio
Despite reports on Wednesday that Foxconn Technology Group would be abandoning plans to manufacture LCD televisions at its southeastern Wisconsin plant, the technology company's plans to open two "innovation centers" in the state remain on course.
Last summer, Foxconn chose two mid-sized Wisconsin cities to be home to technology hubs, where the company would develop state-of-the-art technology and foster entrepreneurship.
In Green Bay, the company announced it was going to buy the WaterMark building in the city’s downtown, where it would employ 200 people.
Kevin Vonck, the city of Green Bay development director, said he regularly talks to Foxconn executives and regardless of the company's departure from manufacturing televisions, Green Bay's technology center will still open.
"Nothing has changed in terms of the directions of those conversations," Vonck said, who expects the facility to open later this spring.
"Sometimes, we struggle with the R&D side, the innovation side. So for them to take that angle up here, we were excited about it. So, we'll continue to work helping them get that facility developed here," he said.
Eau Claire was also tapped to host an innovation center.
Aaron White, Eau Claire economic development director, said Wednesday's news of the manufacturing plant was "not a major concern" for his area because his western Wisconsin city was selected for a research and development operation, not a manufacturing one.
"What we have seen coming down there has not been anything to change the plan to open that facility here," he said. "That's how we're taking the project and how we're planning to move forward."
Foxconn plans to create at least 150 high-tech jobs in Eau Claire’s downtown Haymarket Landing.
White said he hasn't spoken with company executives since the announcement but that when the company opens the center, it will have a ripple effect for area cafes, restaurants and a positive effect on housing values.
He said there is no timeline on when the office would be up and running or when Foxconn will post job openings.
Foxconn's website indicates the centers in Green Bay and Eau Claire will be "operational" in early 2019.
Even though leaders in Green Bay and Eau Claire are optimistic this week's statement will have minimal, if any, effects on the centers in Green Bay and Eau Claire, Vonck said it could dampen the hopes of other area companies. Like shipping and logistics companies that may have expected to get business from moving products out of the southeastern Wisconsin factory.
"Supply chains and logistics are pretty strong up here," he said. "I do not know if any company was banking on anything in particular, but there is a missed opportunity."
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