RALEIGH – Intel’s announcement that it will invest some $20 billion in Ohio to build and operate a semiconductor plant means that the Midwest could continue to be a competitor for the economic development deals that the state is pursuing, Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina told WRAL TechWire today.

Chung, who spent the first decade of his career in economic development in Ohio, grew up in Columbus, which is the closest city to the site announced by Intel this morning that the company expects will employ some 3,000 workers upon its completion, and 7,000 workers to build.

“This decision also shows that our competition in North Carolina isn’t just limited to the Southeast and Texas,” said Chung.  “The industrial Midwest remains a formidable competitor, and Intel’s announcement means we’ll probably see that part of the country more frequently in the mix for the deals that North Carolina is also pursuing.”

Intel picks Ohio for $20B semiconductor plants, thousands of jobs

NC can still offer strategic advantages

Chung told WRAL TechWire that North Carolina does offer semiconductor companies “all of the strategic advantages that semiconductor makers are seeking, including world-class talent, robust infrastructure, reliable and sustainably sourced energy at competitive prices, one of the best business climates in the country, and a strong bipartisan commitment to economic development.”

That’s enough to place North Carolina on short lists for additional semiconductor economic development projects, an executive with knowledge of site selection processes for semiconductor firms who requested anonymity told WRAL TechWire.

But decisions from other firms aren’t likely to be finalized or announced until the federal legislation known as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act reaches resolution.  The legislation includes $52 billion for semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing, and the industry executive told WRAL TechWire that many firms are waiting until the legislation passed in order to make a decision.

“Intel was planning on growing anyway, they could make decisions anyway,” said the executive.  “Other companies are sitting back, waiting to hear how much money they may get from the federal government.”

Semiconductor firms reportedly consider Triangle for massive manufacturing plant

What companies are seeking: talent

Micron, for example, is expecting to invest $150 billion globally, and is prioritizing talent and business climate in its search.  The Triangle Innovation Point, a 2,150 acre site in Chatham County, has also previously been reported as a viable site location for a semiconductor manufacturing facility.

Samsung selected TexasIntel selected Ohio.  North Carolina could end up with a large manufacturer of semiconductors, or it could end up with smaller, mid-size companies, the executive told WRAL TechWire.  That could still mean hundreds of millions or even one or two billion dollars in investment and more than a thousand jobs coming to the state, should a semiconductor company expand or choose to locate a facility in the state.

“The truth of the matter is,” said the industry executive.  “Everyone cares about workforce.”

That includes life science, biotechnology, and biopharmaceutical companies, said the executive.  “As supply chains for biopharmaceutical industry and semiconductor industries are very similar,” said the executive, “One would think that this would be a part of the sales pitch.”

Even as one semiconductor firm crosses NC off list, others may remain interested, exec says

The state is prepared

“North Carolina is a great place to land,” the industry executive told WRAL TechWire.  But ultimately, the executive noted, it is the Department of Commerce, state and local governmental officials, and EDPNC who “really have to cut the deals.”

Chung told WRAL TechWire that Intel’s decision may have come down to some tangible items, “like how well each proposed site met Intel’s specific criteria.”

But Chung also guessed that intangible items, such as how the company felt in its interactions in each location, “tipped the scale for Columbus over the 40 other sites the company considered.”

There are usually multiple locations that could meet a company’s stated needs, said Chung.  Still, the company will only pick one location.  North Carolina was reportedly taken off of one semiconductor company’s list earlier this month.

“The entire North Carolina team will always work hard to be that one top choice, and we look forward to continuing to do just that with every opportunity we’re given,” said Chung.

Chip maker: Talent, power, ‘favorable regulatory environment’ among new plant priorities

The North Carolina Department of Commerce has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story.