RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A lot of ears are likely to be tuned in today as the state’s Economic Investment Committee meets to discuss possible development deals and a new chip factory could be on the list. But having lost out on previous efforts to land a semiconductor factory and the thousands of jobs to go with it, does North Carolina have a chance to win one today?
The Skinny checked in with an industry source who is well connected with the advanced manufacturing sector. He’s not sure the state will win a new plant supposedly under consideration by Durham-based Wolfspeed. The state already lost one facility to New York after that state fought to win it with incentives after the company originally had intended to build in North Carolina. And other N.C. efforts have failed to win more “chips” even as it has finally secured an auto plant (VinFast) and a big battery plant (Toyota).
Plenty of money is becoming available through the federal semiconductor incentive package being signed into law by President Biden today. And North Carolina has an incentive package of its own targeting a site in Chatham County.
Let’s share together what our industry insider – who asked not to be identified – had to say about North Carolina and chips.
- What’s your reaction to the passage of this hugh cash-filled bill that’s being signed today? Will it be of big benefit to the industry? if so, how?
It should provide extra capital to many of the companies already looking to expand in the US and will “level” the playing field to a degree. What I mean to say is that the other big international players (Asia and Europe) already offer favorable subsidies to semiconductor manufacturers. It’s the new “Oil subsidy” if you will.
To me the bigger issue is time…time to build very complex facilities, time to educate and train a highly skilled workforce, time to meet power and other needs, time to build out the industrial commons or supporting companies that need to be in place. So, it will help, but it is not a panacea. The CEO of TSMC said it very well on 60 Minutes (recently). If you saw it you likely noted he’s not too concerned and even though they announced a multi-billion facility in AZ, some of the above mentioned issues exist…people, water, power, and more.
- How about jobs? Will it create the numbers people are touting?
It will positively impact jobs, but again, time! Not all construction companies can build these facilities and the people required just to build them are not too plentiful.
- What are the chances NC could land a chip plant now that it’s passed?
That NC has big pharma is a positive since there is what I call advanced manufacturing in NC. That said, the powers to be have yet to fully understand the industry…that political educational process also takes time and motivation. Ohio was motivated and made Intel feel comfortable…did NC? Also, the power and people issue needs to be addressed.
- See any chance of Wolfspeed making further expansion here?
Possible, but NY and numerous other states are working hard to lure them as well. to grow there as are other places. We’ll see.
- A plant needs water and lots of highly skilled workers – can NC deliver even with some of the big sites already committed such as in Chatham County and the battery plant site in the Triad?
Given NC’s lack of meaningful concern about the above, although I do believe NC could be an ideal location for the industry, I have reservations. The competition is very tight among the states and NC is somewhat “fat and happy” with all of their recent announcements, so again, we’ll see.