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Foxconn joins Wisconsin companies to create investment fund (UPDATE)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Foxconn Technology Group will partner with three major Midwestern companies to create a $100 million fund to help launch technology startups around the world, the companies announced Tuesday.

The Taiwanese electronics giant, Advocate Aurora Health, Johnson Controls and Northwestern Mutual will each contribute $25 million to create the Wisconn Valley Venture Fund.

The fund will be controlled by a committee comprised of representatives from each of the four companies and a manager based in Milwaukee, who will be named by the end of the year. The fund will begin investing money “shortly thereafter,” said John Schlifske, chairman and CEO of Northwestern Mutual.

Officials from the four companies said they expect the fund will produce returns and lead to advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and health care. The venture fund, among the largest in the state, is not required to invest in Wisconsin companies and will seek out technologies nationally or globally that the four contributing firms can use.

“We’re totally agnostic in terms of the geography of the companies,” Schlifske said. “We’re very focused on the ability of the companies we invest in to provide technology that will help the four businesses that are here.”

Johnson Controls has a Milwaukee headquarters and produces a wide range of technological products for buildings, including thermostats, security systems and dampers. Northwestern Mutual is a financial services company based in Milwaukee. Advocate Aurora Health Care runs 27 hospitals throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.

The companies announced the fund at Milwaukee’s Discovery World alongside Gov. Scott Walker, who touted the announcement as another rippling benefit of the Foxconn deal.

Walker said an extensive supply chain to feed Foxconn’s massive Mount Pleasant plant doesn’t yet exist in Wisconsin and the firm may need new companies to emerge to support it.

“They are going to make these investments in a way that helps fit their growth,” Walker said.

Foxconn is currently building a massive flat-screen production campus in Mount Pleasant dubbed Wisconn Valley. The company has promised to invest up to $10 billion and employ as many as 13,000 people. If those targets are met, Foxconn could receive more than $4 billion in state and local incentives, the largest economic development package in U.S. history for a foreign company.

Foxconn on Monday announced it was giving the University of Wisconsin-Madison $100 million as part of a new partnership to invest in engineering and innovation research. Company officials said it was another sign of their investment in and long-term commitment to Wisconsin.

The joint venture fund is among the largest pools of money available to start-up companies in Wisconsin, which has lagged behind most other states in entrepreneurial activity in recent years.

“We look forward to enabling entrepreneurs and startups to find success for transformative solutions through the fund,” Foxconn CEO Terry Gau said in a statement.

The Daily Reporter staff writer Nate Beck also contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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