Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addressed the area businesses and community leaders at a Chamber luncheon on July 11. He focused on workforce and hinted at good things to come. In addition to this being a unique time in Wisconsin history as the state has a 2.8% unemployment rate, the Governor alluded that Foxconn Technology Group may have an announcement in the coming weeks regarding an investment in the Chippewa Valley. His good news “tease” came in a familiar light as it was about four years ago that the Governor announced his support for the Pablo Center at the Confluence at a Chamber luncheon.
Three-pronged workforce approach
Walker addressed concerns over workforce by describing a three pronged approach: the traditional education and training as a foundation, breaking down barriers, and marketing and talent recruitment. Initiatives like Academic and Career Planning, the increase in Youth Apprenticeships, increasing use of fab labs in schools, and training grants for businesses, all serve to expose students to careers and industries so they have the tools to plan for their future, be exposed to local job opportunities in their own back yard, and help close the skills gap amongst those already in the labor force.
The second pillar was breaking down barriers to the workforce. Programs like Project SEARCH allow individuals with a disability to have an internship. Walker described the program as being about “finding the unique abilities someone has that are otherwise identified as a disability” and fitting them in the right position for these unique abilities. He shared a testimony about a woman who, because of her Autism and related need for repetition, excelled in a role in health care at sterilizing medical instruments in ways that someone without her precision and repetition would not be as able to do.
The last pillar is marketing and recruitment. For the first time, the state is going outside of its borders to market Wisconsin’s quality of life and low cost of living to Midwest millennials, university and college alumni, and transitioning veterans and their families. Walker highlighted some of Wisconsin’s accolades including the 23 benefits offered to veterans, which is more than any other state offers.
State wide impact of Foxconn
Finally, the Governor illustrated the state-wide economic impacts of the Foxconn deal, emphasizing that the state’s investment was dependent upon the company delivering 13,000 jobs at an average pay of $53,000 per year. There are expected impacts across the state such as 20,000 – 25,000 jobs created indirectly, a potential $1.5 billion of an economic investment through the supply chain, and it currently employs people in 60 out of 72 Wisconsin counties. Walker argued that the monetary value was not the only benefit, but rather the company’s innovation and career opportunities are retaining UW System students stay in Wisconsin and those outside of the state to come study and work.
“We believe Foxconn is considering an additional investment here in the Chippewa Valley, and we think that will help them augment some of the work they’re doing to attract a little more talent to help them with their operations and that it physically doesn’t have to be all right down in Racine,” Walker told reporters after the speech. “We’re excited about what’s coming up.”
More information: Good News May Await Region, Walker Hints (Leader-Telegram), Governor Walker Stops in Eau Claire with Foxconn Teaser (WQOW - 18), Governor Walker Says Foxconn is Considering Investing in the Chippewa Valley (WEAU - 13)
Posted by: Kaylee Tracy, Legislative & Workforce Development Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.