PLATTEVILLE — Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday morning he was “very confident” that two UW–Platteville building projects approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee last week will be in the final 2017–19 state budget, and he will sign the budget with those projects included.
The JFC approved $55 million for a new engineering building, Sesquicentennial Hall, and $24 million for the second phase of Boebel Hall renovation Aug. 28.
“Nothing’s certain until it’s done, but it’s pretty certain” that the full Legislature will approve the projects as part of the 2017–19 budget, said Walker, adding that he will sign the budget with “each of these projects fully intact.”
Walker said the projects were not in the budget he introduced early this year because of “feedback in general, not about this project but in general, about bonding” in the budget. He said borrowing is the lowest in the current version of the 2017–19 budget in 20 years.
Walker said the UW–Platteville projects “fit a number of priorities,” particularly “needs in the workforce,” with about 75 percent of UWP engineering students working in Wisconsin after graduation.
“You’ve got great advocates” who made the case for the UWP projects, said Walker, referring to Sen. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) and Reps. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City) and Todd Novak (R–Dodgeville), who were in attendance in Engineering Hall Tuesday morning.
Walker said the JFC would finish on the budget this week, the Legislature would vote on the budget next week, and he would sign the budget the following week, by the end of calendar summer.
Walker also touted connections to Foxconn, which is proposing what Walker called “arguably one of the biggest” economic development projects “in the nation” and the largest project in state history, “bigger than anyone foresaw.”
“Just based on workforce alone, those two projects are compelling enough, in their own right, with or without Foxconn,” he said. “Expansion of the university’s engineering facilities will help address Foxconn and other Wisconsin employers’ high demand for trained engineers. Students will gain the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in career and life. And Wisconsin will maintain the highly-skilled, dependable workforce it is known for.”
Walker said benefits of Foxconn’s project, whose economic impact is estimated at $10 billion, would be statewide, including $1.4 billion in annual sourcing of supplies from Wisconsin companies. He said Foxconn’s annual impact would be four times as large as Oshkosh Corp., the defense transportation company that sources $300 million from Wisconsin companies each year.
“It has the ability to increase the state’s gross domestic product by as much as two points,” he said. ‘That’s mind-boggling when you think about it.”
The UW System Board of Regents included the UW–Platteville projects on its 2017–19 budget request last August. Boebel Hall was the UW System’s top renovation priority out of more than 70 proposed renovation projects, and Sesquicentennial Hall was the only new proposed building in the 2017–19 UW System budget proposal.
UWP’s mechanical and industrial engineering programs are now housed in Ottensman Hall and are slated for Sesquicentennial Hall. Sesquicentennial Hall would augment Engineering Hall, which was built in 2008 with UW–Platteville and the UW–Platteville Foundation funding 60 percent of the building.
The funding for Boebel Hall would be the second of three slated phases of renovation of the building.
If the Boebel Hall phase two remains in the budget that is approved by the state Assembly and Senate, construction is slated to begin in October 2019 and be completed in December 2021. If Sesquicentennial Hall remains in the budget, construction is scheduled to begin in September 2021 and be completed in December 2023.