Microsoft is planning a $1 billion data center on Foxconn site. Here's what we know about jobs, water use at data centers.

·3 min read

Microsoft announced plans this week to purchase 315-acres to build a $1 billion data center on the sprawling Foxconn site in Mount Pleasant.

Racine County and state leaders are touting the announcement as a win for local taxpayers and the Racine County region where Foxconn's promises over the last five years have not materialized.

“Microsoft joins a roster of innovative, world-class companies that are choosing to grow in Wisconsin because ofour highly educated workforce, outstanding infrastructure, central location, and unparalleled quality of life," Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation said in a statement.

Approvals are needed from the Mount Pleasant Village Board and Racine County before the Microsoft deal can go through.

If approved, Microsoft would purchase the land for $50 million by July 31, 2023. Foxconn will receive the proceeds from the Microsoft land sale as a partial reimbursement of money Foxconn paid in 2017 to acquire land.

Microsoft is also eligible for up to $5 million in tax credits per year if the company meets its obligations. But there has been no mention of how many jobs will be created.

Here's what we know about the kind of facility that Microsoft would bring to the site.

Data centers don't require many workers

For the last 10 years, the Potawatomi Business Development Corp. has quietly operated a 45,000-square-foot data center at the former Concordia College campus on Milwaukee's west side.

Inside are thousands of computers that store data for large and small private and public companies and the state of Wisconsin.

Despite the $30 million operation, only eight people work at the data center, said Ryan Brooks. vice president and general manager of Data Holdings Data Center, the company that operates the facility for Potawatomi.

"Data centers don't bring a bunch of fanfair," Brooks said. "It's a big building for computers, not a huge number of employees. At the end of the day, the computers are doing the work."

Potawatomi Business Development Corp. data center on Milwaukee's west side.
Potawatomi Business Development Corp. data center on Milwaukee's west side.

Microsoft is 'good for Wisconsin business'

While Potawatomi's data center serves private clients, Microsoft's center will serve people who use the platform. So if you have Windows, you have Microsoft.

Brooks said Microsoft has one of the world's largest data centers in Chicago, but bringing a Microsoft cloud to Wisconsin, could mean faster service.

"It's really great to see Wisconsin as an important player in this technology space," Brooks said. "This is a wonderful thing for the industry all around."

Brooks added that while the data center itself probably won't employ many people - it will create construction jobs and supporting infrastructure jobs.

"Microsoft being here is good for Wisconsin business," Brooks said.

Data centers use as much water as small cities

Tens of thousands of computers in one space are hot.

Large amounts of evaporated water is used to keep computers from overheating and ensure data centers can run 24/7. This includes cooling towers, chillers, pumps, humidifiers and computer room air conditioners.

Venkatesh Uddameri, director of the Water Resources Center at Texas Tech University, told NBC News a typical data center uses three to five million gallons of water a day, the same amount of water as a city of 30,000-50,000 people.

Both Google and Microsoft have pledged to be more climate conscious by 2030.

Microsoft opened a "sustainable datacenter region" in Arizona in 2021 and announced it would use 100% renewable energy in all data centers and facilities by 2025. Specific plans for the Mount Pleasant data center have not been released.

Corrinne Hess can be reached at or on Twitter @CorriHess

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Microsoft expansion at Foxconn site: What we know about data centers