A U.S. semiconductor company is scouting multiple sites in Arizona, Texas, California and North Carolina for a project that could have a capital investment of $40 billion or more with 5,000 to 10,000 jobs at full buildout.
Multiple sources told the Triangle Business Journal in North Carolina that the project is on an accelerated timeline as the country, and the world, rushes to fill the gap in the global chip shortage that’s hampering the economic recovery and causing supply chain disruption.
Citing non-disclosure agreements with various parties including the company and site selection officials, sources would not confirm the name of the company but confirmed it is a U.S. chipmaker. Cities in Texas, Arizona and California as well as in Chatham County, North Carolina are vying for the project, sources added.
Last October, CEO Sanjay Mehrotra of Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology (Nasdaq: MU), one of world’s largest chipmakers, announced the company’s intent to invest more than $150 billion globally over the next decade in memory manufacturing and research and development.
On an earnings call in December, Mehrotra said the firm “look[ed] forward to working with governments around the world, including the U.S., as we consider sites to support future expansion.”
When asked if the company was considering North Carolina for a facility, a Micron spokesperson said the company is vetting opportunities around the world and weighing many factors, such as “access to a strong talent pool, reliable and cost-competitive utility services, alignment with our corporate sustainability objectives, and a favorable regulatory environment.”
“In the U.S., we’re engaging in discussions with multiple states and will provide updates as the process continues and at the appropriate time,” the spokesperson added. “There are multiple factors that inform our decision to invest billions of dollars to construct and operate a fab. We will share specific locations as we close on unique investment targets.”
The North Carolina project, dubbed “Project Autumn,” has zeroed in on the former Moncure Megasite, now called Triangle Innovation Point. The 2,150-acre site in southeast Chatham near the Lee County line has been viewed for years as a prime location for a large economic development project. Multiple government and industry sources have said interest in the site has picked up recently.
“We do have some pretty significant activity on it,” said Chet Mann, mayor of nearby Sanford. “I think it’s safe to say it’s a matter of when, not if.”
It’s unclear at this time if a “Project Autumn” has been proposed in any Phoenix area cities, though state land sites in Queen Creek, Goodyear and north Phoenix could be prime spots for the facility in the Valley. Sources said those sites were eyed by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. as possible locations for a $17 billion chipmaking plant. Samsung ultimately chose Taylor, a suburb of Austin, Texas for the plant.
Project needs new law passed
Sources said the semiconductor project is tied to the passage of the CHIPS Act, federal legislation designed to spur investment in domestic chip production, which has been strongly championed by Intel Corp. CEO Pat Gelsinger. Over the past several decades, the U.S.’s share of the global chip industry has shrunk as semiconductor companies chose to invest in manufacturing plants overseas. The U.S. Senate passed the legislation last June – it was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which includes $52 billion to fund provisions in the CHIPS Act. But the bill, widely endorsed by industry leaders, has stalled with congressional leaders in the House of Representatives. Also in June, the Senate introduced the Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors (FABS) Act, legislation that would establish an investment tax credit to incentivize greater semiconductor manufacturing in the United States.
Virtually all of the major semiconductor makers in the U.S. are now working to bring more production stateside.
Last March, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) announced plans to build two new chip factories in Arizona. And chip designers such as Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM), which has had a research design facility in the Triangle for nearly two decades, and Advanced Micro Devices (Nasdaq: AMD) have also been seeking out opportunities to bulk up supply. Advanced Micro recently extended a deal with GlobalFoundries – which has considered North Carolina for production factories in the past – that will provide it with $2.1 billion worth of chips through 2025. And Texas Instruments (Nasdaq: TXN) has announced it’s building a new analog chips plant in Richardson, Texas, during the second half of 2022.