Smart Choice, Foxconn, JCI, Generac & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:
—Smart Choice MRI, which is based in Chicago but has roots and dozens of employees in the Milwaukee area, raised an undisclosed amount of financing from Aurora, CO-based UCHealth, according to a BizTimes Media report. Smart Choice operates a chain of imaging centers that charge patients a flat rate of $600 or less for scans. The company currently has 17 locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota, and reportedly plans to expand to more states, including Colorado, in coming years. UCHealth is one of at least three hospital systems that have invested in Smart Choice; others include Appleton, WI-based ThedaCare and Naperville, IL-based Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Reached by phone, CEO Rick Anderson said Smart Choice moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago from Mequon, WI, in February. Thirty-five of the company’s 189 employees are based in Mequon, he said, making it Smart Choice’s largest office. Anderson said one reason his company decided to relocate to Chicago was that most investors and others around the country who do business with Smart Choice can get to Chicago by taking a single flight. Anderson said he’s still based in the Milwaukee area, but travels to Chicago frequently.
—Earlier this summer, a group that included the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Carbone Cancer Center and a UW-Madison engineering professor met with executives of Foxconn and discussed the prospect of the Taiwan-based electronics assembler building a healthcare-focused facility in the Madison area, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The Foxconn facility, if it ends up getting built, could be a research center or device manufacturing plant, the newspaper reported, citing an anonymous source. In July, Foxconn announced plans to invest $10 billion to build a manufacturing facility in Southeastern Wisconsin. There have since been multiple reports that the company is also considering building facilities in other parts of the state.
—Generac Power Systems (NYSE: GNRC), which manufactures propane-powered generators and other engine-powered products, said it plans to expand its workforce by at least 400 employees over the next five years. Generac is based in the Milwaukee area but operates several facilities elsewhere in Wisconsin. The company will receive up to $10 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. through 2021, provided Generac meets certain corporate and workforce development benchmarks.
—Johnson Controls International (NYSE: JCI) said chairman and CEO Alex Molinaroli will leave the company and its board of directors on Sept. 1. JCI, whose product line includes car seats and heating and cooling equipment for buildings, was founded in Wisconsin over a century ago. The company moved its headquarters to Cork, Ireland, following JCI’s merger with Tyco, which was completed in September. Molinaroli’s successor will be George Oliver, who currently serves as JCI’s president and chief operating officer. Oliver was CEO of Tyco before the merger. The Milwaukee Business Journal reported that Molinaroli will leave JCI six months earlier than previously announced, and is set to receive a $41 million cash severance payment on his way out.
—Wisconsin-based Gener8tor, which runs training programs for startups and invests in them, partnered with UW-Madison’s computer sciences department to begin holding three-week accelerator programs for teams of students with ideas for new businesses. Unlike its core accelerator program, Gener8tor will not invest or take equity stakes in companies that participate in its new gALPHA program. gALPHA will hold its first program in Madison in October, and is being supported by UW-Madison’s CS department, as well as the school’s tech transfer office, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).