By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Chipmaker Micron’s planned $15 billion investment in a new plant in the hometown of Boise will help protect the United States from vulnerabilities in a globalized semiconductor market , US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said Monday.
“It’s time for America to do things again, with American parts and American labor,” Granholm told a crowd of about 250 guests and invited Micron workers in a field of ground covered with tents for a groundbreaking ceremony. The event included the triggering of a ground clearance explosion away from the crowd that emitted red, white and blue smoke.
The United States and Europe are scrambling to boost their chipmaking capabilities and reduce their reliance on producers now mostly based in Asia. Semiconductor companies have also tried to diversify their operations to avoid bottlenecks caused by problems – such as a natural disaster or pandemic lockdown – in a specific region.
Micron officials said the sagebrush-steppe desert area east of Boise is expected to have the largest chip-making cleanroom, or fab, in the United States by the end of the decade, covering 600,000 square feet (55,000 square meters) and creating 17,000 jobs. Construction is expected to begin in 2023, with cleanroom workspaces ready by 2025 and expanding in phases.
Micron is one of the nation’s largest chipmakers, with product development sites in five other states and eight countries. Research and development is centered in Boise.
Sanjay Mehrotra, President and CEO of Micron, said the company is committed to investing in the Idaho community, with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. both K-12 and higher education. He said the company will focus on reaching underrepresented and rural school populations.
Micron will “inspire young minds to learn the STEM skills they need to succeed in our tech-driven world,” he said.
In recent years, Republican state lawmakers have caused consternation among the Idaho business community by launching attacks on public education spending, which succeeded in 2021 with a $2.5 million cut in universities despite a budget surplus.
Late last year, Micron officials announced plans to build a 500-worker memory design center in Georgia, in part to take advantage of that region’s education system. This caused tremors in the business and political landscape of Idaho.
But earlier this year, lawmakers approved a record $300 million increase for education. And earlier this month, lawmakers added another $410 million from a budget surplus in a special legislative session called due to high inflation.
“We really needed this (semiconductor factory) in the United States and not overseas,” said Republican Senator Scott Grow, who attended Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony and helped pass legislation beneficial to Micron. “To get a big company like this and to get enough workers, we need to do everything we can here in Idaho to help provide that kind of education so it can continue to grow, and they don’t. don’t have to just bring people in. from out of state.”
Last year, several chipmakers expressed interest in expanding their US operations if the US government is able to facilitate the construction of chip factories. Samsung announced plans in November to build a $17 billion factory outside Austin, Texas, and Intel opened a new $20 billion computer chip facility in Ohio last week.
Micron’s $15 billion investment was made possible by the passage last month of the CHIPS and Science Act, a $280 billion bill aimed at strengthening the United States’ competitiveness against China and to avoid another chip shortage like the one that derailed the auto and tech industries during the pandemic. The act sets aside $52 billion to bolster the semiconductor industry, which due to COVID-related supply chain constraints has struggled to make the chips.
In addition to the CHIPS Act, Micron also benefits from tax breaks in Idaho. And earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Brad Little, that eliminates sales taxes on expensive equipment Micron will need to purchase to produce the chips.
Of the 17,000 jobs planned, 2,000 will be employed directly by Micron and 15,000 are expected to come from other companies working in support of the new plant.
LaMarr Barnes, CEO of Tokyo-based Kurita, said the company would bid to help create the supply of ultra-pure water needed to manufacture chips. If successful, he plans to hire several hundred workers for the Boise area.
“We would like to be able to do the work for this new factory, and if we do, we will have to hire quite a few engineers,” he said.
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