NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) – Construction crews are preparing hundreds of acres of land in Licking County for an Intel factory that promises to transform the economic landscape of central Ohio, and they’re drawing inspiration from another part of the country.
Intel is spending $20 billion to build two semiconductor chip fabrication plants in New Albany in an effort to manufacture more of them within the United States, and the company’s announcement is already attracting neighbors, including a $200 million vitamin factory and a tech park by VanTrust.
Intel also has similar operations in other parts of the country, including an existing plant in Chandler, Ariz.
“The operation that Intel had in Chandler was like its own little city,” said NBC4 Digital Executive Producer Mark Feuerborn, who was invited to visit the plant.
The Chandler plant is one of many that makes semiconductor chips: the little silicon parts that power electronics in much of our daily lives. With Intel bringing a similar plant to Ohio, it led to the company’s CEO dubbing the area “Silicon Heartland.”
“I was interested in learning more about the plant because, the way I understand it, it’s almost going to be the replica of what we can expect in Ohio,” Feuerborn said.
Semiconductor chips can be found in cars, electronics, and many other things in high demand. The Biden administration, with Intel, hopes Congress will soon pass the CHIPS Act, freeing up more federal money to further incentivize Intel’s chip production in the U.S. The company has already received $1.2 billion in incentives from the state of Ohio to bring its facility here.
“We’re just trying to, you know, make the playing field even in order to do the supply chain rebalancing back into the United States,” said Jim Evers, who will be the Ohio operation’s general manager. “Domestic manufacturing is alive and well in Arizona. I’m excited to expand that to Ohio.”
Feuerborn witnessed the manufacturing process that runs 24/7, 365 days a year firsthand, after suiting up in a clean room.
“They don’t want you to have a single piece of hair or anything fall off and contaminate the floor or the surface of anything in there,” he said.
Feuerborn had to leave his camera behind.
“Because of proprietary rules and some of the trade secrets, of course, we were not allowed to film inside,” Feuerborn said. “But it’s this room shrouded in yellow light, and you just see, end to end, machinery pumping away with different tasks.”
Intel provided video of the factory floor, officially named Fab 42, which NBC4 was allowed to show.
“Probably the most noticeable and striking things that I saw in there, it almost looked like a scene out of the movie ‘Monsters, Inc.,'” Feuerborn said. “If you remember the rail system where they would have doors coming in with the monsters to come through to scare children, they had something very similar just running all through the ceiling of this fab.”
It’s the automated superhighway, which hustles materials between different sections of the fab throughout the manufacturing process, before the chips get shipped around the world.
“Going into it, I think that you know that you’re going into a place that’s kind of like a facet of technology, a very impressive and advanced place,” Feuerborn said. “But you don’t really get a glimpse of the scale — the sheer size of what’s going on there until you’re inside and looking at it.”
Compared to the Chandler plant, Evers said Ohio’s operation is going to be even bigger.
“The campus that we have here, it’s pretty big — 700 acres, but if you look at what we’ve announced for Ohio, it’s 960 – almost 1,000 acres that’s there,” Evers said.
From job creation to the environment to the physical landscape, there’s no doubt that Intel will have a major impact on central Ohio. Over the next several weeks, NBC4 will explore every angle of it, from the vantage point of a community that’s already felt that impact.
Next week: Intel’s effect on housing and what needs to be done in central Ohio to avoid some of the challenges people in Chandler are dealing with.