Intel Ohio site could become the world’s largest chip plant

24 Jan 2022

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger at the announcement event in Ohio. Image: Walden Kirsch/Intel

The initial plan includes a $20bn investment to build two fabs in Ohio to bolster US domestic production amid a global chip crunch.

A new Intel chip-making facility in the US state of Ohio could be the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturing site by the end of the decade.

The company is planning an initial investment of $20bn to build two facilities on the site, but said total investment in the coming years could grow to as much as $100bn.

Future Human

First revealed in an exclusive interview with Time, Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger said he expects the facility to become “the largest silicon manufacturing location on the planet” with plans to create up to eight fabs spanning 2,000 acres. “We helped to establish the Silicon Valley,” he said. “Now we’re going to do the Silicon Heartland.”

The initial investment, announced on Friday (21 January), involves two chip manufacturing factories at the Intel site in Licking County, Ohio, with backing of more than $20bn to meet the surging demand for advanced semiconductors amid a global chip shortage.

Production is expected to begin in 2025, so the site may not help with current semiconductor constraints but will provide a boost in the future.

Intel is also investing an additional $100m in partnerships with Ohio’s universities and colleges to build a pipeline of talent to help the plant and bolster research in the region, in what Ohio governor Mike DeWine called “monumental news for the state”.

‘More like a small city’

The initial phase of the project, spanning 1,000 acres, will see the creation of 3,000 Intel jobs and 7,000 construction jobs – with planning starting immediately and construction to commence in late 2022. This will be the company’s first new chip manufacturing site in 40 years.

A computer-generated image of an Intel building surrounded be trees and parking lots.

A rendering of the planned Intel site in Licking County, Ohio. Image: Intel

As one of the largest investments in a semiconductor manufacturing facility in recent US history, the project is expected to boost domestic production of chips in the US as competition with Asian giants such as Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company intensifies.

Gelsinger joined US president Joe Biden and commerce secretary Gina Raimondo in an announcement at the White House on Friday. Here, Gelsinger said that “the impact of a mega-site like this is simply profound”.

“[A] semiconductor factory is not like other factories. It’s more like a small city, supporting a vibrant community of services, suppliers and ancillary businesses. You can think about this as a magnet for the entire tech industry, and all of this is creating new jobs,” he said.

Government to chip in

Gelsinger added that other recent investments to expand US chip manufacturing facilities, such as at Intel sites in Arizona and New Mexico, are part of Intel’s plan to reduce US reliance on chip imports and increase domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity.

“And as the company who put silicon into Silicon Valley, and the company that is now the catalyst for the Silicon Heartland, Intel is committed to restoring end-to-end leadership, innovation and manufacturing here in the US. We are doing our part, but we can’t do it alone.”

He singled out the CHIPS for America Act currently going through the US Congress, which would set aside $52bn in federal investments for domestic semiconductor research, design and manufacturing, and said that with the Ohio plant “we are putting our chips on the table” motivated by potential funding and supports from the US government initiative.

The EU laid out plans for its own European Chips Act last September to coordinate research, supply and manufacturing of semiconductors in the continent and reduce dependence on Asian manufacturers. As well as its expansion in the US, Intel is planning to invest €80bn in Europe over the next decade.

Intel also said that the Ohio plant will be designed and constructed with “green building principles”, with the goal to be powered by 100pc renewable electricity – along with net positive water use and zero total waste to landfill – in accordance with the company’s 2030 sustainability goals.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com