Race for Governor, Foxconn, Promega & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Voters in Wisconsin will head to the polls on Tuesday, Aug. 14 to cast ballots in primary races for governor and other elected offices. Read on to learn about connections between some of the candidates for governor and the state’s technology and business sectors, as well as other recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is seeking a third term after winning elections in 2010, 2012, and 2014. A handful of Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination, which would clear the path to take on Walker in the general election on Nov. 6. Polls have shown state schools superintendent Tony Evers leading the field of Democratic challengers, though 41 percent of respondents to a recent NBC News/Marist College poll said they remain undecided about which candidate they’ll vote for in the primary. Another Democrat in the race is Kelda Roys. She’s a former member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and founder and CEO of OpenHomes, a Madison-based real estate startup. Roys is married to Dan Reed, managing partner of American Family Ventures.

Walker is expected to continue touting the high-profile deal the state’s job-creation agency struck with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn in mid-2017. Foxconn executives and Wisconsin economic officials have said the company will invest $10 billion to construct an electronic display production facility in the state’s southeastern corner, which could eventually employ up to 13,000 people. A groundbreaking ceremony was recently held for the plant, which President Donald Trump, Walker, and other big-name politicians attended. Foxconn will receive about $4 billion in tax credits and other economic incentives, provided it hits pre-determined investment and hiring targets. Foxconn has also been buying up office buildings around the state, which the company said it plans to renovate and turn into part of an “innovation center network” connecting different parts of Wisconsin.

Most of the Democrats running in the primary have said they wouldn’t scrap the Foxconn deal entirely if elected. The Democrat who has voiced the strongest opposition to the deal is Matt Flynn, a Milwaukee attorney. Flynn recently said he would get rid of the Foxconn tax incentives if he becomes governor, according to a Capital Times report.

—Separately, Foxconn said this week it will award $1 million in prizes over the next three years as part of a “Smart Cities — Smart Futures” initiative. The goal of the initiative is to get students, faculty, and staff at Wisconsin colleges and universities to generate new ideas for developing “smart communities and systems” throughout the state, Foxconn said. Alan Yeung, the company’s director of U.S. strategic initiatives, said in a news release that prize money could be awarded to proposals like “developing attractive streetscapes, building transportation networks, designing innovative living spaces, improving the way we learn, or enhancing healthcare.”

—Startup founders, software geeks, and others will gather in downtown Madison starting next week for the ninth annual Forward Festival, an entrepreneurship-focused conference that runs from Aug. 16 to 23. You can check out the full list of events here. The event list’s topics include everything from investment readiness to startup legal issues to a Wisconsin agriculture innovation forum. See also this Madison Magazine post previewing the conference.

—Madison-based Bluetree Network has grown its team to about 300 people—roughly half employees, half contract workers—and recently moved into new offices on the city’s west side, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Bluetree provides consulting services to hospitals and clinics that use software developed by Verona-based Epic Systems, which is one of the country’s leading vendors of electronic health records software. Bluetree vice president Wayne Achterberg told the newspaper that his company projects it will hire another 150 employees and contractors by the end of next year.

—A little over a month after Bird put a fleet of about 100 electric scooters in Milwaukee, the California-based company said it would pull the vehicles off of the city’s streets and sidewalks until a framework is in place allowing them to operate legally there. Bird has been expanding into large metro areas in the U.S. at a rapid clip, but ended up deciding to pump the breaks in Milwaukee until municipal and state laws allow for “scooter-sharing programs to be implemented throughout the city,” according to a news release.

—Promega Biotech India, a subsidiary of the Fitchburg-based life science supplies business Promega, has partnered with India-based Core Diagnostics to use Promega’s microsatellite instability test to “guide the use of cancer immunotherapies,” GenomeWeb reported. Promega did not disclose any financial terms in a news release announcing the collaboration.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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