Mar. 30, 2023 9p; Updated 3-31 11a with confidentiality agreement
(WGTD/WPR)---Plenty of accolades but no new information from local officials in Mt. Pleasant Thursday night on a proposal from Microsoft to build a $1 billion data center on land originally earmarked for Foxconn.
The Mt. Pleasant Village Board unanimously approved a set of agreements that'll help pave the way for construction that could begin as early as this year. "I can not tell you how excited that whole region is right now," said Steve Wicklund, president of neighboring Union Grove. "All of Racine County should be super pumped up," he said.
Village President Dave DeGroot publicly unveiled Microsoft's plans at Monday night's village board meeting. The data center campus is expected to be built on a 315-acre tract of land that's located between K-R and Braun Rd., and 90th St. and the railroad tracks.
Still unknown is the number and types of jobs to be created. Also unknown is the square footage of whatever buildings are planned.
Scott Schanke, a professor of information technology management at UW-Milwaukee, told Wisconsin Public Radio that he believes the center will likely employ fewer than 100 people. Even so, he called Monday's announcement a "big win" for the state and region.
The sentiment was echoed by Joe Rickard, owner of OFFSITE, an IT provider with a small data center in Kenosha. "If this is truly a data center, then they will not need a lot of employees---it's largely a lights-out facility," Rickard told WGTD earlier this week. "Now if Microsoft plans to put one of their education centers there or station service technicians there then that would be fabulous. That would include a lot of people," he said.
Either way, Rickard said he was excited about the project, adding that as a Microsoft-licensed provider he expected to pick up more business. He'll also be saving money by having a Microsoft data center so close by.
Kevin Randall lives about a mile from the site. Speaking at Thursday night's meeting, Randall raised nine concerns and questions, including whether new fiber optic lines will need to be installed, and whether the village might resort to using eminent domain, the process that forced dozens of property owners several years ago to vacate their homes and farms to make way for Foxconn.
Randall was referred to Village Project Manager Claude Lois, who wasn't taking questions Thursday night. After the meeting, Lois told a reporter to call back Friday and gave Randall his business card.
One reason village officials appear to be tight-lipped is a confidentiality agreement that's included in the documents that were approved Thursday night. One section prohibits village officials from talking without first getting approval from Microsoft. The prohibition is lifted once closing takes place. That's expected to come later this spring after the county board signs off.
Also speaking during the citizen comments portion of the meeting was State Senator Van Wanggaard. "So we didn't get the 13,000 jobs from Foxconn, but we did get the infrastructure in place to have those 13,000 jobs come here," he said. The shovel-ready aspect of the site is what appealed to Microsoft, village officials said.
No one from Microsoft attended Thursday night's meeting.
The agreements that were approved by the village board now go to the Racine County Board.
They include a provision to allow Microsoft to get a partial rebate on property taxes. Foxconn benefits by being able to unload unneeded acreage. Both Foxconn and the village benefit by having the ability to pay off debt at a quicker pace.