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My View: A warm welcome to the neighborhood, TSMC

Phoenix Business Journal

Any homeowner will say it’s great to get some help when the time comes to move in and start living the American dream. But when the president, governor and mayor along with members of Congress and industry titans show up to help turn on the lights in your new digs, what do you do?

Celebrate, of course.

That’s what happened last week when I joined this elite group and many others to mark construction completion of phase one of the new Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. manufacturing facility in north Phoenix near Interstate 17 and Loop 303. Machinery can now start moving in as the plant heads toward becoming operational in 2024 with the manufacture of TSMC’s 5-nanometer chips.

Before you envision President Joe Biden driving a forklift as Gov. Doug Ducey and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tote boxes, rest assured TSMC is leaving the physical “move in” to the experts. Instead, it was a day that politics was put aside following a heated election season.

Perhaps, Biden captured it best: “Gov, you and I are on different sides, but we see and share the same vision of Arizona as a hub — literally, a hub for technical change that’s going to take place.”

The president and his team did their homework on what’s happening here, as his comments revealed:

  • After a TSMC’s initial “$12 billion investment here in Phoenix to build their first fab to make semiconductors in the United States … they will construct a second fab here in Phoenix to build 3-nano chips.”
  • All totaled, “TSMC is investing $40 billion here in Arizona — the largest foreign [direct] investment in the history of this state. Over 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 high-tech jobs will be created.”

Add to that the impact of suppliers for TSMC that have begun developing their own facilities in Arizona or are planning expansions here.

CHIPS Act will back manufacturing effort

Also on hand to hear the president was Apple CEO Tim Cook. The media has reported his company plans to source some of its needed chips from the Arizona facility. In addition, TSMC chairman Mark Liu introduced the president.

Another Mark in attendance was Sen. Mark Kelly, who along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema were key backers of the CHIPS and Science Act expected to provide up to $52 billion to help increase the nation’s production of semiconductors and related technologies as the world deals with a global shortage. Biden signed the act into law in August.

It’s ironic that a void in chips even exists. As Biden noted, the United States produced more than 30% of the chips around the world more than three decades ago but now produces only about 10% “despite leading the world in research and design in new chip technologies.”

The event with the president actually was part of a two-day celebration. The previous night I was invited to an appreciation dinner at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale to honor the construction team for the project.

Besides Liu, attending were three people recently honored with the Judges Award at the Arizona Technology Council’s 2022 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation for their efforts to help convince TSMC that Arizona is the place to be for expansion. They are Sandra Watson, president and CEO of Arizona Commerce Authority; Chris Camacho, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Economic Council; and Christine Mackay, community and economic development director at city of Phoenix.

I have to admit that those two days added to my enthusiasm for this project, as well as what’s to come for Arizona’s and the nation’s semiconductor industry. The president captured it best in his closing remarks.

“We are the United States of America,” Biden said. “And there is virtually nothing, nothing beyond our capacity if we work together. Not a single thing. So, let’s go keep this moving.”

Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.


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