Critics of the Foxconn plant coming to Racine County often have complained that there’s no way for many workers from Milwaukee to get there. So, Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb is proposing a new bus service to transport people from the city to the plant.
While testifying before the Milwaukee County Board’s transportation committee on Wednesday, Lipscomb said it’s an exciting time for Milwaukee and urged the county not to pass up an opportunity to get involved in the effort to connect area workers to Foxconn jobs.
“It’s not every day that we know that there are thousands of jobs coming just down the street in our region and I think for many of us it’s tempered by the question of 'Will Milwaukee benefit from those jobs?' and I’m very interested in making sure that Milwaukee does benefit from those jobs,” he said.
Under the plan Lipscomb is proposing, a new bus service would be established to pick up workers in Milwaukee and Racine and transport them to the Foxconn complex in Mount Pleasant. He said the service could ultimately bring more than 1,300 workers to the massive LCD screen manufacturing facility each day.
Lipscomb’s plan is based on research by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
The organization's Kevin Muhs laid out the details: “What’s included in this memo is a route that would run from downtown Milwaukee, stop at the Holt Avenue Park and Ride lot and the College Avenue Park and Ride lot, serve the future Foxconn facility in Mount Pleasant. It would also have a leg that would start at the downtown Racine transit center, also serve the Gateway Technical College campus in Racine and then connect to the Foxconn campus from that direction as well."
Muhs said pick up and drop off times would coincide with shift changes at the plant.
Money to start up the proposed route would come from the recent sale of a hangar at Mitchell International Airport. It belonged to the now-defunct Midwest Airlines and sold for $4.5 million.
Under terms of the sale of the former airline’s assets, the proceeds must be shared among Milwaukee County, Racine County and state government. That’s because all three invested in Midwest Airlines, trying to keep it from going under.
As a result, the Milwaukee and Racine County Boards, and state officials, would have to approve the new bus service.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Dan Sebring told the committee that he would like some of the $4.5 million put toward making Milwaukee workers job ready.
“I would like to see any efforts in this area, where the county and Foxconn and the state and Racine County and everybody works together to somehow incorporate some type of job training or something that we could ensure that people from Milwaukee County not just use this route, but use this route to get to a job at Foxconn that’s going to be there waiting for them. We need to help them get that job, not just a ride to the job,” Sebring said.
Wednesday’s hearing was for informational purposes only, so the committee did not take action on the proposal. Chairman Theo Lipscomb says the new Milwaukee County Board, which will be seated in April, would be taking up the plan.
Gov. Walker and his team have spearheaded the Foxconn project. His administration would not comment directly on the bus proposal. But it released a statement, saying the state looks forward to working with Milwaukee and Racine to ensure the use of the funds benefits the community – and is appropriate under the terms of the sale of Midwest Airlines’ assets.