New Semiconductor Fab Comes to Oregon
Intel announces plans for a leading edge 22nm chip development facility in Oregon, while upgrading other manufacturing plants in the US.
The large, white tent near the D1D development fab parking lot belied the importance of coming announcement. Oregon’s leading congressmen and governor had assembled under this tent to share their support for Intel’s staggering investment in the US.
The event began with Bill Holt, Senior VP and GM at Intel, announced that Intel would be investing up to $8 billion in US facilities. Of particular interest to the Oregon high-tech community were plans for D1X, a new 22nm semiconductor fab. This fab would provide processor and related chip for the PC, mobile and embedded markets. Holt also said that two existing Oregon fabs – D1D and D1C – would be updated.
This is welcome news for Oregon, which is struggling with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Holt said that the new 22nm fab would result in 6,000 to 8,000 construction jobs over the next several years. Perhaps more important was that these projects would require 800 to 1,000 new permanent high-tech jobs at the company.
Oregon’s governor, Ted Kulongoski, spoke next. He noted that Intel’s announcement represented the largest private investment in the US by any other company over the last several years. Kulongoski applauded Intel’s long term vision in developing next generation technology in the US.
This theme of the importance of investment in the US was echoed by Senator Ron Wyden, who highlighted the recent influx of high-tech companies into Oregon, including Solarworld, Google, Facebook and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among others.
Senator Jeff Merkley tried to explain the importance of the new fab’s technology to a mostly non-technical audience. He compared the large number of transistors that could fit into the space of a single red blood cell. In essence, Merkley’s message was that 500 transistors could fit across one human blood cell. (For those who care, the assumptions are based on two measurements: 1) today’s transistor structures are about 10nm long and, 2) a red blood cell is 5,000 nm across. You can do the math.)
I applaud Merkley’s attempts to convey the amazing technology that this new Intel fab will enable. But perhaps his more important point was the observation that Intel’s presence in Oregon (indeed, across the US) continues to strengthen the role and health of technical universities.
US Representative David Wu, who is also the chair of the Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, concluded the presentation series by enthusiastically saying that innovation was the path to the future. Indeed, Wu explained that innovation was the only path forward, since both monetary policy and political cooperation were “jammed.” His definition of innovation – a combination of labor and materials – is worth noting. His example for the prudent use of both labor and materials was that silicon (sand) could be used to make windows or to make integrated circuits. The later not only fosters innovations but also creates more high paying jobs.
As enlightening as these speeches were, they could not capture the excitement of Intel’s new investments in the world of high-tech. I hope it is a lesson that other industry leaders will follow.