Microsoft's multi-billion dollar Mount Pleasant project to add 'more horsepower' to Wisconsin economy

Reporter Charles Benson looks at who benefits from new data center campus, why it's important to state's digital economy
Microsoft Secret Surveillance
Posted at 9:36 AM, Mar 04, 2024

Microsoft is moving along with its first-ever data center in Wisconsin. It's a big project in the once fertile farm fields of Racine County that will yield good-paying jobs.

You've probably heard about this project in the news. But who will benefit from this multi-billion development and why is it so important to the state's digital economy?

Every day Takis Kinis teaches students who are interested in the computer technology industry and he's excited about their future.

"Everything is transforming, the world is changing really fast," said Kinis, an IT instructor at the Racine Campus for Gateway Technical College.

He knows that a fast-changing world brings opportunities for students hoping to land jobs at Microsoft's multi-billion dollar development in Mount Pleasant.

"I think they're projecting 400 IT jobs at their new data center, at least the first phase of it. That's a lot of employees."

It's already a massive undertaking of cranes and earth-moving trucks. Two hundred workers are on site - ramping up to 1,000 jobs during peak construction for Microsoft's new data center campus.

Jim Paetsch walked reporter Charles Benson through the project from behind the fence of a busy construction zone.

He's a Senior Vice President and Executive Director at Milwaukee 7.

Microsoft has more than 300 data centers in 34 countries, but this is the tech giant's first in Wisconsin.

Benson: "What does it mean for this region to put itself in that position to be in that lane?"
Paetsch: "I think it's critical. Now, having Microsoft here, I think it all the more affirms the direction and the trajectory of this region, and it really just helps us just that much more to be part of that digital economy of the 21st century."

The blockbuster project is not far from the scaled-back Foxconn development that never lived up to its original $10 billion expectation.

However, the initial infrastructure investment in this site helped put Mount Pleasant in a position to win over Microsoft.

The company hopes to have the first data center completed by 2025, with Microsoft saying it has an average of 300-400 jobs on a typical data center campus.

Paetsch is with M-7, an organization working with business and community leaders to bring in regional economic opportunities like Microsoft.

Big name companies also help to recruit and retain local tech and college graduates.

"We are blessed in this region to have a lot of big global companies that call this region home," said Paetsch. "Adding Microsoft to that roster just gives us that much more horsepower when we think about ways in which we can keep our kids here."

The company is already planning a partnership with Gateway Technical College to start a Datacenter Academy.

With one or two-year degrees already being offered in cyber security, computer support, AI, and data analytics, Kinis sees the door of opportunity wide open.

"We might think right now that it's too late to get into the IT game, but it is not," said Kinis. "We are still at the beginning of the whole process."

Gateway says 2,200 students earned associate degrees or technical diplomas during the previous academic year.

Tuition and fees add up to about $10,000 for an IT associate degree - with graduates earning as much as $50,000 a year or nearly $90,000 for data analytics or cybersecurity jobs.