There’s good reason to welcome the possibility that the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn might open a new factory in southeast Wisconsin, and possibly even in Racine County.
Although local elected officials have been quiet about the discussions, understandably out of fear of harming this area’s prospects of landing the plant, the possibility of up to 10,000 new jobs coming to Racine County cannot help stimulating interest. As economic shots in the arm go, this would be an injection of Vitamin B-12.
We know that it’s more than just idle speculation: Outgoing Racine Mayor John Dickert confirmed that Foxconn officials met with city Water Utility General Manager Keith Haas about possibly supplying water to a new factory. And the Mount Pleasant and Caledonia village boards met in a joint closed session last week, reportedly regarding contact from Foxconn officials.
There have been some disconcerting notes sounded in local media regarding the Foxconn prospects: The company’s decision to set up shop here would require the employment of thousands of workers — specifically, workers who can assemble iPhones, PlayStations, touch-screen tablets and other electronics, as Foxconn workers do in China. Some have speculated that there is a shortage of workers in the area qualified to do such work.
In Racine County, that shortage is merely temporary.
Four big stakeholders — the Racine Unified School District; the United Way of Racine County; Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce; and Higher Expectations For Racine County Youth — have been working together in recent weeks, months and years to prepare all of the county’s young people to pursue and obtain family-supporting jobs upon graduating from high school.
As we know, a four-year college or university suits many high school graduates, but not all of them, and we must prepare all of our high school students to be successful adults. That means we need programs that prepare students who are not bound for college.
The work of the members of those four organizations has led to initiatives such as the Academies of Racine. Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, local freshmen are placed in groups, the Academies, which align most closely with their interests and ambitions. For students whose interests lie outside the four-year colleges, this means getting hands-on experience while they are still in high school.
It’s no accident that Foxconn is the subject of local published reports and village-board meetings. There’s a clear reason for the company’s interest: It has found that Racine County stakeholders are already preparing students who want to go in that direction.
Of course, we would love to see Foxconn come here. It would be a huge boost for the local economy.
But even if the Taiwanese manufacturing giant sets up elsewhere, Racine County is already at work preparing its young people for a bright future.