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Foxconn’s $100 million gift to help put up engineering building at UW-Madison (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Foxconn Technology Group announced plans on Monday to give $100 million for engineering and innovation research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is one of the largest gifts in the school’s history and comes as the Taiwan-based electronics giant builds its first North American factory, in southeastern Wisconsin.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank signed an agreement that also calls for the construction of a new research building for UW-Madison’s School of Engineering. The institute will work closely with the plant, which is being built in Mount Pleasant, about 100 miles southeast of Madison and near the Illinois border.

Foxconn, the world’s leading electronics manufacturer, chose Wisconsin for its first plant outside of Asia after receiving generous incentives from the state. Foxconn says the plant could cost up to $10 billion and eventually employ 13,000 people.

Finding those workers is expected to be difficult in a state with low unemployment. The deal announced Monday would provide a means of recruiting interns and employees from the state’s largest university.

The Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology, which will be established by the agreements, will be a hub for technological innovation and provide a setting for research and development initiatives in medical science, materials science, computer and data-driven science.

The institute’s main site will be at the Foxconn manufacturing campus in Racine County, but it will also have a presence in Madison.

The university said the agreements make formal its commitment to working on research with Foxconn, even as Foxconn helps with research, recruiting and providing job opportunities.

Blank said the $100 million deal is the largest industry-research partnership in the university’s history. UW-Madison also plans to raise $100 million under the agreement.

Foxconn separately plans to open its North American office headquarters in Milwaukee and technology centers that could employ hundreds in Eau Claire and Green Bay. Gov. Scott Walker has praised the company’s plans for places outside Racine County, saying they show how the arrival of Foxconn will benefit the entire state.

The total value of the incentives the state and local governments have offered for the main Foxconn project in Racine County could top $4 billion, most of it coming in the form of cash payments from the state. That price tag, the largest in U.S. history for a foreign corporation, has drawn criticism from Democratic opponents of Walker. In his bid for re-election in November, the governor faces the Democrat Tony Evers, who has vowed to renegotiate the deal.

Wisconsin voters appear torn over the value of the Foxconn project. In a Marquette University Law School poll last week, 44 percent of the registered voters who responded said the state is paying more than the plant is worth. A majority, 61 percent, said they think the plant would substantially improve the Milwaukee area’s economy, but an equal percentage said businesses where they live will not be benefited directly.

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