NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) – Intel is one day away from a groundbreaking ceremony in Ohio for what President Joe Biden called the future of the U.S. economy.
The computer chip manufacturing plant to-be on the outskirts of Columbus is the culmination of billions of dollars in funding, a bill putting billions more into play, and the president and Intel both strong-arming Congress into passing it over a year after its inception. The groundbreaking ceremony itself was withheld until that legislation cleared Biden’s desk, allowing him to attend the Friday event as well.
Now that the paperwork is out of the way, Intel has to put its words into action as well. Read below to learn more about Intel’s plans for the state, as well as why even the U.S. president has his eyes on the site in New Albany.
Intel’s vision for the Ohio plant
“Silicon Heartland,” is the term Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger coined once the news broke that the company picked Ohio for its semiconductor fabrication plant. The new factory’s general manager-to-be, Jim Evers, later told NBC4 it would be the biggest manufacturing operation in Intel’s fold.
“The campus that we have [in Arizona] is pretty big, 700 acres, but if you look at what we’ve announced for Ohio, it’s 960, almost a thousand acres there,” Evers said “It took me 28 years to build four fabs here, we’re going to build two more [in Ohio]. I hope that I can build more than that at a much quicker pace.”
Evers’ wish came true in recent environmental filings for the Ohio plant. Intel received emissions permits for four different factories housed at the site, with the potential to double that.
“Adding four factories to the permit does give us the flexibility to move faster,” said Intel spokeswoman Linda Qian. “Now, the [New Albany] site does have the capability to hold eight factories, and so we would need to go through the permit process again if we were to expand to the full eight.”
Each of those individual semiconductor fabrication facilities, or fabs as Intel reps call them, is a major moneymaker for the company, according to Evers.
“When fabs are operational … the revenue generation is very, very high. It’s so high that as a factory manager, person running the fabs, we almost never shut them down because we want to keep them running 365 days a year, 24 by seven,” Evers said.
Why the company picked Ohio
The New Albany location was originally a long shot candidate for Intel’s next semiconductor fabrication plant, according to Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. But he said out of 35 to 40 other competing places, Ohio did something special.
Intel initially approached the state in May 2021. Husted said the site in New Albany was the only one the state could come up with for Intel to look at, because the requirements were steep.
“It had to be … a lot of little things, like it couldn’t even be near a railroad track because of the vibration, it can’t have a vibration,” Husted said. “You have to have more than 1,000 acres. It had to have the infrastructure. It had to have reliable electricity. It had to have access to a workforce.”
When Ohio’s government presented Intel with their Goldilocks candidate, the company replied that it had competition. Nine months later, Husted said the chipmakers’ executives told him why his state made the cut.
“They just believed that we were going to be good partners, that Ohio wanted this,” Husted said. “They felt that there are some places that wanted to dictate terms to them, that didn’t really appreciate what they were up against, that maybe weren’t going to be as welcoming. I think they felt like Ohio was a place that was a patriotic state where people wanted to work hard, that they appreciated manufacturing and manufacturing jobs.”
Ohio had good reason for wanting the plant. While it could have negative impacts in the local housing market, it could also have major positive impacts with the first visible one in job creation. Intel Vice President of Global Talent Planning & Acquisition Cindi Harper told NBC4 that the company will look to hire 10,000 people to staff the inside and outside of the plant.
“Although 3,000 of them will actually be in our fabs long-term, 7,000 of them will be right beside us in construction and other trades,” Harper said. “And typically our trades hire very similarly to the type of talent that we have.”
“If you look at the overall footprint for what Intel brings into this one, there’s the direct jobs that we create, but then there’s also the indirect jobs that we create,” Evers said. “There’s a multiplication effect for everybody else … Our suppliers will bring their employees as well. So, it’s a whole ecosystem that we’re bringing.”
Why Ohio-made computer chips matter
President Joe Biden has long been a major supporter of Intel’s plant in Ohio, painting a lofty picture of the coming factory in his State of the Union address in March.
“If you travel 20 miles east of Columbus, Ohio, you’ll find a thousand empty acres of land,” the president said. “It won’t look like much, but if you stop and look closely, you’ll see a field of dreams, the ground on which America’s future will be built.”
The president and other politicians aren’t just touting the Ohio plant for its benefits to the midwestern state. Intel’s fabs are some of the most noteworthy examples of a U.S. effort to return to power in computer chip manufacturing. The small, silicon wafers power almost everything electronic, including computers, cars and military weapons.
During the 20th century, the U.S. built itself up as a powerhouse that made more than a third of the entire world’s supply of computer chips. That didn’t last as the U.S. failed to keep up with other rising stars, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. A pandemic-era shortage of these core parts worldwide has also hurt multiple industries and driven up prices for their products.
The White House also wants Intel’s work in Ohio to make the country more competitive with manufacturing heavyweights, directly naming China. But to make the Biden administration’s hopes happen, the Ohio plant’s general manager said Intel needed what other industry players already have.
“It’s too concentrated today in, you know, Asia and other places, and all of those other companies in these other countries, they get supplemental help to be able to make that effective,” Evers said. “So, we’re just trying to make the playing field even, in order to do the supply chain rebalancing back into the United States.”
The money behind the plant
The cash backing Intel’s plant has made it the largest private investment in Ohio history. Beyond the $20 billion Intel put down on the table to construct its newest location, the company also received state and federal help.
As Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration made the case for the perfect place for Intel in New Albany, it also sweetened the deal. Shortly after the announcement that Intel was coming to Ohio, the state also disclosed $1.2 billion in incentives it committed to Intel with taxpayer funds. It gives Intel $300 million per fab it builds, amounting to $600 million total for the company’s first two planned factories. Ohio also committed to investing $691 million into infrastructure to support the New Albany location, including in the form of a water reclamation facility to help Intel recycle water it uses. Intel could also be eligible for the state’s $650 million job creation tax credit if it walks the talk on its 10,000 jobs.
The Biden administration pushed to get a $52 billion package through Congress that also benefits Intel. The CHIPS and Science Act took multiple forms since being introduced in the 2019-2020 legislative session, but eventually found its way through the U.S. House and Senate in July with public prodding from Intel’s CEO and Biden. It’s not clear yet just how much of a slice Intel will get from the CHIPS Act.
The winding tale of Intel’s venture into Ohio will enter its next chapter Friday, as the president and numerous Intel and state officials join together at the New Albany site. The groundbreaking ceremony is set to start at 10:45 a.m.