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If your driving patterns have not taken you around or through the massive swath of land that will encompass the Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing campus, it can be informative to take a look now and then.

The next six to 12 months will be a phase of massive visual and physical change. Site development work includes erosion control, excavation, stormwater management and testing work. This initial phase of the construction project will reportedly require 500,000 hours of work on site and create 800 direct and indirect jobs.

Racine County contractors who hope to bid for Foxconn-related work were invited Wednesday by County Executive Jonathon Delegrave to an information session with M+W/Gilbane, the primary contractor on the project.

The information session provided invited local subcontractors, vendors, suppliers and professional services firms an opportunity to learn more about the construction-related business opportunities in the work underway in Phase 1 for Foxconn’s advanced display manufacturing facilities.

Check out our story on the potential impact on Highway KR.

Visual changes underway

A drive north on County Highway H reveals enlarged intersections at Highway KR and Braun Road. New turn lanes and general road widening have taken place. Traffic signals have been installed. It won’t be the last of many road and highway changes.

“The first thing to occur will be the road construction,” said Delegrave. It will include “the expansion of some roads and the building of new roads.

“There will be the building of new intersections. We’re working with (WisDOT) to make sure safety is paramount. But second, to relieve traffic congestion as best as we can. We think we have a good plan.”

Trucks will soon fill the roads bringing aggregate materials from the west end of the county to the Foxconn site. Delegrave suggested that this is another reason to drive with increased awareness around the area. 

“We have very distinct coordination with WisDOT and surrounding municipalities in regards to truck routing to make sure we allow for managed local traffic and safety for all parties involved,” said Adam Jelen, senior vice president and project principal for M+W/Gilbane. He explained there will be an increased in activity to and away from the site, but it will be coordinated with WisDOT and local municipalities.

Read more about how the razing work came first in the project.

The first building on the site will be a general purpose facility that will serve construction phase needs, but it will later become part of the Foxconn facilities. “A small multi-purpose building, approximately 100,000-square feet, will be constructed this year to stage the logistic (needs), both temporary and permanent, for the building program,” explained Jelen. “It will be a precast concrete facility, similar to a warehouse.”

‘A lot of dirt moving’

Jelen explained that current phase will see a lot of dirt moving and aggregate being placed for the ultimate building program.  Managing stormwater flow will mean piping being brought in, he added. “People will start to see the shaping of the land and the overall development of the building program,” added Jelen. “That will happen over the course of the next year.”

For every piece of earth moving or heavy construction equipment on the site, there will be an operator at the controls. And that is just one segment of the workforce that is about to arrive for the construction phase.

According to Jenny Trick, executive director of the Racine County Economic Development Corp., a well-coordinated construction plan will address concerns about having enough people to do that work.

“The scale of (the temporary workforce) is unknown at this point,” she explained. “But there is a development agreement on the Foxconn site that (addresses) the construction schedule by contract. It covers seven years.”

According to Trick, Foxconn can shorten the construction schedule by choosing to make it more aggressive. How that plays out will drive workforce demand. Trick said among her greatest concern is the construction workforce and what opportunities Racine County workers will have to fill the jobs.

“Plans are advancing to support that (need) through the First Choice apprenticeship program,” said Trick “As well as the Big Step initiative, working in partnership with Gateway Technical College. There are a lot of moving parts, but the actual number of construction workers is really dictated by the construction schedule.”

Wave of construction workers expected

Ancillary issues loom almost as large as the construction issues, said the county executive. Not the least is the wave of people headed this way. Said Delegrave: “There are a number of things we have to get ready for from a services standpoint – from firefighting to law enforcement and public works. “We are potentially going to have more (police) traffic stops and emergency calls. We are gearing up. The county and the law enforcement agencies are working together (to create plans).

“The other issue is where are these people going to stay? What are our housing issues? We’re working with the city of Racine and other communities on issues around how to house these workers temporarily.”

Delegrave said the county has looked at other communities that experienced similar building booms, like the oil-driven North Dakota growth, and Reno, Nev., with its Tesla factory.

Said Delegrave: “They asked us questions like: ‘What’s your ordinance on RVs?’ Well, we didn’t have one.

“It’s little things like that you really need to be cognizant of. Because if a number of these little things get out of whack, it can affect the whole project.”

The Foxconn campus will include multiple buildings totaling 22 million square feet on a 1,000-acre parcel. The project is expected to generate $31 million per year in new property tax revenue, which is expected to pay for all of the public improvements and development costs incurred by the tax increment district that covers the area of the campus.

The facility will manufacture liquid crystal display screens used by computers, televisions self-driving cars, aircraft systems and other products, according to published reports. The plant will be the first of its kind in North America and the only one not located in Asia.

The lead contractor for the Foxconn project is actually a combined effort. The Rhode Island-based Gilbane Building Co. will work with German-headquartered M+W Group to serve as lead contractors on the $10 billion complex.

Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.