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Johnson Controls CEO: Milwaukee will benefit from $100M venture fund

George Oliver believes the four-company Wisconn Valley Venture Fund will lead to "big business" for the Milwaukee area.

Oliver, chairman and CEO of Johnson Controls International plc since 2017, discussed the $100 million partnership at Monday's Greater Milwaukee Committee monthly meeting. Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) formed the venture fund in late August along with Foxconn Technology Group, Northwestern Mutual and Advocate Aurora Health Care.

"We realized that we're all leaders in what we do, and a lot of what we do today is going to be dependent on technology," Oliver said. "We saw a lot of convergence in technologies. Even though you have financial services, health care, Foxconn in the electronic space and Johnson Controls more in the building space, there's a lot more intersection that's happening with technology."

Oliver said Johnson Controls will spend more than $800 million in 2018 simply on research and development investment. While that investment touches regions scattered across the globe, Oliver said Johnson Controls, which is based in Cork, Ireland, but maintains significant Milwaukee-area operations, wanted the opportunity to cultivate more resources closer to home.

"What better way than to do it right here and be able to create the leadership," Oliver said.

Through the venture fund, Oliver hopes to groom local talent, which in turn could help employers combat the personnel issues posed by the area's skills gap. He also emphasized the importance of the area's colleges and universities in producing those future leaders.

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