Microsoft Corp. plans to develop a $1 billion data center campus in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, a village near the Illinois border. The internet giant will pay $50 million for a slice of land left empty for years after a high-tech factory meant to transform the region’s economy was not built.

Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group forged an agreement in 2017 with former Gov. Scott Walker to manufacture LCD screens in Mount Pleasant, investing $10 billion and employing 13,000, in return for billions in subsidies. But the company, a top manufacturer of Apple’s iPhones, downsized its plans and created few jobs, forcing government officials to find other users.

Data centers process and store huge volumes of computer data, forming the backbone of the internet. Although these facilities typically don’t create large numbers of permanent jobs, local leaders and tech experts say Microsoft’s arrival signals the Foxconn land, along with infrastructure improvements already complete, won’t go to waste.

“It’s an unexpected bonus for citizens in Southeast Wisconsin who may have felt the Foxconn deal never materialized as advertised,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “It also has the potential to bring more business into the Upper Midwest, including Illinois, from companies that may not recognize what kind of talent we have here, especially in the tech industry.”

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