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Foxconn, Marquette partnership probable

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Marquette plans to partner with Foxconn Technology Group, a Tawianese manufacturer that produces LCD screens for iPhones. The university has been in talks with the manufacturer and regional groups about possible partnerships.

Foxconn is the largest contract electronics manufacturer in the world and the fourth largest information technology company in the world based on revenue, bringing in almost $136 billion in 2015. It is also the largest private employer in China.

The university is also looking to have partnerships with technical colleges to address talent needs like workforce development.

“Everything is being worked into place, so there is no formal partnership (yet),” said Carmel Ruffolo, associate vice president for research and innovation.

Once the engagement happens, a team will look after the large company because there is a lot involved in engaging with corporations, such as sponsorship, internships, co-ops, research programs and other educational programs on campus.

“It will all depend on how we want to structure this,” Ruffolo said. She said the team approach works best with companies.

“That will give students a really good introduction to the company, and also the company will be able to have an introduction to our students,” Ruffolo said.

It is difficult to tell what the engagement will look like right now, according to Ruffolo.

“Each corporation is different, and they like to do things their own way,” Ruffolo said. “Foxconn is too new, not only to Wisconsin, but America, to really predict as to what the full benefits could be.”

However, Ruffolo said she could see the whole region benefitting from Foxconn being in southeastern Wisconsin.

Ruffolo has not been notified of a date when the engagement is going to occur. It takes months, sometimes years, to work out the details.

“We really do have a very good relationship with corporations, and it is something the university is very keen in doing,” Ruffolo said.

Marquette has engaged with multiple companies in the past. Notable partnerships include Kohler, Johnson Controls and Northwestern Mutual.

Ruffolo and her team have been talking to regional leaders, including people from Milwaukee 7, an economic development agency based in Milwaukee.

The electronics manufacturer aims to eventually hire 13,000 workers at the Wisconsin facility. Marquette officials are unsure of the number of Marquette students that Foxconn could benefit.

After the facility is built, the company will be looking to hire 3,000 employees immediately.

“I’m very excited, and I’m not the only one on campus. I think there’s a lot of us who are really looking forward to being able to engage with this large company and be able to work with the trove of technology that they have,” Ruffolo said.

While the Wisconsin Assembly already approved the plant, the Wisconsin Legislature has until the end of September to approve the $3 billion incentive package.

University President Michael Lovell attended a public hearing hosted by the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy Aug. 3. Lovell compared Foxconn’s presence in Wisconsin to when Google built their headquarters in Pittsburgh in 2006.

After the exit of the steel industry put the city in a struggle, Google’s move to Pittsburgh was a big help to the city and the region, Lovell said at the hearing. He added that he thinks Foxconn coming to Wisconsin will have similar effects.

“Foxconn has even a bigger potential than what I saw in Pittsburgh because the scope is so much larger,” Lovell said. He believes Foxconn coming to Wisconsin will bring in a supply chain of other companies as a result of economic clustering.

“In my opinion, the pie will only get bigger, not just for southeastern Wisconsin, but for the entire state,” Lovell said.

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