CHATHAM COUNTY – Wolfspeed has begun the process of selecting suppliers for its $5 billion silicon carbide semiconductor wafer fabrication plant in Chatham County.

The Durham-headquartered company hosted a series of events in Siler City today, serving as the first of multiple supplier days the firm will hold in the coming months.

“We’re focusing primarily on our construction trades and the necessary suppliers to support them,” said Leslie Buckheit, the director of indirect procurement at Wolfspeed, in an interview with WRAL News.  “To really promote local business growth and bring small and diverse businesses into our supply chain.”

Buckheit noted that the company plans to hire 1,800 workers within the next five years, but there are a lot of steps that need to happen to get the facility ready.

“We need transportation crews. We need skilled labor in electrical trades, construction trades. We also need suppliers who can provide various different types of materials,” noted Buckheit.  “We know we have a big task ahead of us, and the only way we know we can achieve that task is by reaching out to the community and asking suppliers and groups in the community to come and be part of this project with us.”

Wolfspeed’s existing facility in Durham will be one-tenth the size of the planned manufacturing center in Chatham County, and will be the largest silicon carbide factory in the world, replacing the company’s Mohawk Valley, New York, facility that was announced in 2019, and then completed last August.

Building supply chains

“We want our suppliers to be close enough for us that we can pull just in time, so we’re going to have availability in this region as well,” said Buckheit.  “We do expect as we expand, a lot of our partners are going to expand in this area with us.”

One of those companies could be Dillon Supply Company, a Raleigh-based firm that’s been operating in the region since 1914.

“We supply all these good kind folks with tools, steel and all the things they need to complete their jobs,” said Andy Daughtry, a key account director at Dillon Supply Company, in an interview with WRAL News on Wednesday.

Daughtry attended Wolfspeed’s event to learn more about the scope and scale of the project, he said.  “Really what they’ll be needing to make it a success. And that’s where we’ll come in,” said Daughtry.  “You’re talking the scale of over a billion dollars of needs, so pipes, steel, all of those things. The jobs they’re going to need, welders, pipefitters, truck drivers, warehouse space.”

Those are, said Daughtry, needs that the company may be able to provide.

Wolfspeed announces $5 billion investment in Chatham County, largest in NC history


Economic growth for the region

And that could mean great things, not just for Wolfspeed, or for Dillon, but for the entire region.

“It really has a kind of continual tidal wave if you will of creating economic diversity with job creation and success there,” said Daughtry.  “You have a tremendous amount of people that come into a community to build a project. They go to eat. They get their haircut. They need dry cleaning.  All those things. So you see that ripple effect pretty quickly.”

The site is already in process, and Wolfspeed could begin to lay the foundation for the manufacturing facility very soon.

According to Buckheit, that could begin in April.  The first phase of construction is anticipated to be completed in 2024 and to cost approximately $1.3 billion.

~ WRAL TechWire reporter Jason Parker contributed to this report

Mercedes picks Wolfspeed semiconductors for electric vehicles; stock jumps