Chipmaker Micron to build $20 billion N.Y. factory amid semiconductor boom

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

By Jeanne Whalen, Washington Post

Tech giant Micron said it will invest $20 billion in a new chip factory in Upstate New York and up to $100 billion over 20 years if it decides to expand — another sign of a domestic semiconductor manufacturing boom.

Micron said it will build the factory in Clay, N.Y., just north of Syracuse, with the first phase of construction to run through the end of the decade. The site will initially employ 3,000 people and could eventually include four factories and 9,000 employees if Micron opts to continue building.

The news is the latest in a string of U.S. chip-production investments announced in recent months as manufacturers take advantage of $52 billion in federal subsidies and additional tax credits passed in the recent Chips and Science Act.

“To those who doubted that America could dominate the industries of the future, I say this — you should never bet against the American people,” President Biden said in a statement Tuesday.

Micron only weeks ago announced another big factory project — in Boise, Idaho, near its headquarters. Intel, the chip giant based in Santa Clara, Calif., broke ground last month on a $20 billion project to build two factories near Columbus, Ohio. The company is also investing in a $20 billion expansion in Arizona.

Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s largest chipmaker, is building a $12 billion factory in Phoenix that it aims to finish late next year. SkyWater Technology is building a chip factory and research facility next to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and Samsung and Texas Instruments have announced large chip-making construction projects in Texas.

Most of the companies have said that the federal subsidy program induced them to invest.

Semiconductors have been in short supply for two years, amid soaring global demand and a lack of investors willing to build the multibillion-dollar factories needed to make the components. The lack of supply has hobbled automakers and other manufacturers that use chips, forcing them to cut production.

Asian governments have funneled large subsidies into the sector for decades, giving Taiwan and South Korea a particularly large share of global chip production. U.S. manufacturing of the components has declined sharply over the years, leaving the United States heavily dependent on Asia and particularly Taiwan for its chips, a reliance that has worried U.S. officials as tensions between the self-governing island and China rise.

The new domestic construction boom could begin reversing that trend. But the projects also face hurdles, including finding enough engineers and skilled technicians to staff them.

More than 30,000 high-tech workers could be needed if all the planned manufacturing projects come to fruition, Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology has estimated.

The Chips and Science Act includes funding to train workers to run the facilities, and many semiconductor manufacturers, universities and community colleges are scrambling to scale up training programs.

Manish Bhatia, vice president of global operations at Micron, said the company was attracted to the Syracuse area in part because of its large population of former military members with strong technical skills.

“There are an incredible number of veterans that exit the military here in Syracuse,” he said in an interview. “That veteran talent really makes a terrific base for us.”

April Arnzen, senior vice president in charge of hiring, said Micron will be working with New York state universities and community colleges to add semiconductor courses and hands-on training to their curriculums.

The Micron project will be a boon for Upstate New York’s economy, with the company projecting that a full build-out of the site will support 50,000 jobs in the region, including construction and supplier jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who led passage of the Chips Act with Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), called Micron’s project the largest private investment in the state’s history.

In an interview, Schumer said Micron chose the site in part because it is close to a hydroelectric power plant near Niagara Falls that produces inexpensive electricity.

“If there’s a word to describe today, it’s transformational,” Schumer said. “This is our Erie Canal moment. Just as the Erie Canal fueled explosive job growth and prosperity in the 19th century, so will these investments fuel explosive job growth and prosperity in the 21st century.”