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What Intel's Central Ohio semiconductor factories could mean for Greater Cincinnati

Intel Corporation
A rendering shows early plans for two new leading-edge Intel processor factories in Licking County, Ohio. Announced on Jan. 21, 2022, the $20 billion project spans nearly 1,000 acres and is the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio history. Construction is expected to begin in late 2022, with production coming online at the end of 2025.

Up until now, Ohio didn't have any chip factories. These two will employ 3,000 workers with an average salary of $135,000.

On Friday, Intel announced what had been rumored for months - that the Silicon Valley semiconductor maker was building a $20 billion factory northeast of Columbus.

The massive development would employ 3,000 workers, each averaging $135,000 a year. It would become Ohio’s first chip factory.

Seventy-five percent of semiconductors are made in Asia in Taiwan, South Korea, China and Japan. Intel has four plants in the U.S.

The pandemic shone a spotlight on semiconductor shortages. They are key to cars, cell phones, appliances, gaming consoles, medical devices and more.

The company will build on 3,000 acres in western Licking County.

Why here and why Ohio?

Intel’s investment would be the biggest in Ohio’s history.

“Today’s announcement is monumental news for the state of Ohio,” says Governor Mike DeWine. “Intel’s new facilities will be transformative for our state, creating thousands of good-paying jobs in Ohio manufacturing strategically vital semiconductors, often called ‘chips.’ Advanced manufacturing, research and development, and talent are part of Ohio’s DNA, and we are proud that chips — which power the future — will be made in Ohio, by Ohioans.”

Ohio is a manufacturing hub, says University of Cincinnati economics professor Michael Jones. “We know what we’re doing in manufacturing. Even though historically we’ve done a lot of car manufacturing and aircraft engine manufacturing, so the opportunity to work in the semiconductor industry I think is exciting for the state.”

Jones says Ohio has the workforce, the need and relatively low energy costs.

He looks forward to spillover effects where the state can attract other companies because of Intel. “Ohio has made significant investments," Jones says. "Just recently the Cincinnati Innovation District here with the University of Cincinnati received $100 million from the state to grow its workforce where thousands of new employees trained in STEM fields."

In Friday's news conference, Intel said it would invest $100 million to attract skilled talent.

Ohio can supply the jobs

Semiconductor jobs began disappearing nearly 30 years ago. That's when it was cheaper to make them overseas. University of Cincinnati Director of Microelectronics and Integrated Computing Systems Rashmi Jha is thrilled to see them coming back.

“The fact that all semiconductor jobs are going offshore also has produced a shortage of workforce," she says. "If the students can’t find a job in the areas we teach them, over time those areas will vanish, right? So the fact that Intel is opening here will also promote educators to train the workforce in this area.”

Demand is only going to increase. Global chip manufacturing is expected to grow by 56% by 2030.

“In the next decade the major driver of semiconductor electronics is going to be communication, artificial intelligence, as well as the automotive industry," Jha says. "You’ll need a lot of chips for automotive.”

Intel says boosting chip production in the U.S. is critical to national security and industrial competitiveness. Ohio says Intel’s technology is essential to key state sectors including automotive, advanced mobility, aerospace and aviation, consumer goods, data centers, defense, healthcare and technology.

Intel says it's excited to call Ohio home

According to CEO Pat Gelsinger, "The new factories we'll build in Ohio are part of our strategy to increase semiconductor R&D and global manufacturing capacity and restore U.S. semi manufacturing leadership. We expect Intel Ohio will become one of the largest semiconductor manufacturing sites in the world over the next decade."