WI Watchlist: Foxconn Jobs, Marquette Esports, Rockwell Deal & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

[Updated 1/30/19, 7:39 am CT. See below.] It’s time to catch up on some recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community, including the launch of a varsity esports program at Marquette University and American Family Insurance’s vague plans for a downtown Milwaukee office that will invest in technology initiatives. Read on for details.

—Foxconn Technology Group, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer that is building a massive plant in southeastern Wisconsin that could eventually employ 13,000 people, missed its hiring goal in 2018 that would’ve allowed it to claim the first round of state tax credits tied to job creation. The firm said this month that it had 178 full-time employees in the state last year, which was 82 jobs short of the threshold required to claim the initial tax credits, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Foxconn can still earn those credits if it makes up the shortfall in future years.

—American Family Insurance made waves with the announcement that it has bought the naming rights to Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, starting in 2021 and continuing for at least 15 years. As part of the Madison-based insurance firm’s investment in Milwaukee, it plans to open a downtown office within the next two or three years that will focus on data analytics and “business innovation,” among other work, AmFam said in a press release. The company is still determining where the office will be located and how many people it will employ there.

—Marquette University announced it will launch a varsity esports team in the fall, which the Milwaukee-based university claims is the first organized video gaming team run by a major conference Division I athletics program. Marquette has had a club esports team since 2015.

The university plans to use the new program as a recruiting tool, particularly to attract students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. It also envisions opportunities for the esports program to enhance the university’s computer science education offerings.

—Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK) said it acquired Emulate3D, a U.K.-based engineering software developer. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

—Genetic Visions, a genomic testing company focused on livestock, is expanding its Middleton laboratory in a $2 million project expected to result in the creation of 21 jobs over the next three years, according to a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announcement. WEDC has authorized up to $100,000 in state income tax credits for the project, subject to the company meeting its hiring goal.

—Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARWR) said in a securities filing that the employment of Zhen Li, senior vice president of chemistry and non-clinical development, is expected to terminate on Feb. 5. No reason was given. The news follows another recent executive change at the RNA interference drug developer: the position of Peter Leone, Arrowhead’s vice president of strategic business initiatives, was eliminated in early January.

Pasadena, CA-based Arrowhead operates its laboratories in Madison, WI. [This news item added.—Eds.]

—Joe Kirgues, co-founder of Wisconsin-based startup accelerator organization Gener8tor, is among the new appointees to the WEDC board, according to reports by the Milwaukee Business Journal and BizTimes Media. Kirgues was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. Changes to WEDC’s governance structure were enacted through controversial lame-duck legislation signed late last year by outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who was defeated in November’s election.