InsideWis: Why has Microsoft picked Wisconsin for its AI data center? Just ask AI

Inside-WI-logoMADISON, Wis. – The question on the minds of many people now that Microsoft has decided to invest $3.3 billion in an artificial intelligence data center in Racine County is “why Wisconsin?” versus the West or East coasts or overseas.

The short answer: Microsoft leaders, who are familiar with the state, see it as the kind of place where AI innovations in manufacturing can be put to work quickly and with a solid return on investment.

Year after year, Wisconsin ranks either No. 1 or No. 2 in the percentage of its workforce engaged in manufacturing, often swapping places with Indiana. In fact, when I asked ChatGPT4 what industry sectors in Wisconsin are best positioned to benefit from AI, here’s what came back: food and beverage processing, industrial machinery and equipment, automotive components, medical devices and equipment, chemicals and plastics, paper products and electronics and electrical equipment.

“If you put this data center almost anywhere else in the country, I’m not sure there would nearly the potential return,” said Buckley Brinkman, who leads the Wisconsin Center of Manufacturing and Productivity and who has been an advocate for state industries large and small to adopt the new technology.

The reasons are simple enough: AI can help Wisconsin manufacturers be more efficient and productive; better predict maintenance downtime; optimize supply chains; and control quality. Its predictive properties can help reduce energy use and waste on the front end and avoid costly mistakes or down time on the back end.

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