Intel factories open central Ohio

BY: NICK EVANS

White tents sprang up Friday on the dusty land where Intel is building two microchip factories. Returning to a line from his last State of the Union address, President Biden called it a “field of dreams” meaning “the industrial Midwest is back.”

“Since I took office, our economy has created nearly 10 million new jobs,” Biden trumpeted. “More than 668,000 manufacturing jobs prove that made in Ohio and made in America aren’t just a slogan anymore — they’re happening.”

Innovate

Inside the main tent, waiters brought sandwiches and canapes while nearly every political, business and educational figure within 50 miles bustled about chatting. Outside, the sun beat down on a cobalt blue sheet of AstroTurf lined with white chairs. The constant clatter and clank of earth-moving machinery mingled with the faint smell of manure.

The facilities, or “fabs,” which the company dubs “The heart of siliconoffer a singular answer to a long list of political concerns. Concerned about the supply chain? Inflation? Jobs moving to the coasts? Jobs moving overseas? Competition from China? Intel’s investment in Ohio offers a heartwarming answer.

This rhetorical malleability helped the project win near-universal political support at a time of deep and bitter partisanship. Keyvan Esfarjani, an Intel executive who oversees manufacturing and supply chain, said enthusiastic support has helped grease the shoes.

“I’m telling you,” he told the crowd, “initially, when we started this project, I thought it would take us another year and a half to get the permits, get the lines running And right behind me we have already started.

Tractors crawling on the site attest that work began weeks, if not months ago, but Friday marked its solemn start. Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, U.S. Representatives Mike Carey, R-OH, Troy Balderson, R-OH, U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-OH, and a handful of Intel executives dived shovels for a purpose – makes a mound of dirt for the cameras.

DeWine described a future where students from universities, community colleges, trade schools and career centers all flock to this site. He argued that the talent pool will lay the foundation for “third and fourth fabs, fifth and sixth fabs, and seventh and eighth fabs, and so on.”

“It’s a big win and it’s just the beginning,” DeWine said.

“In the days, months and years to come, there will be many more wins in Ohio,” he continued. “Because we are investing in and preparing our young and old for the future – a bright future, a very bright future, and a future where all Ohioans, all Ohioans, can live their American dream.”

Build the pipeline

Intel also laid the first bricks of this workforce training plan on Friday. The company announced a $17.7 million investment in higher education programs that will help train the engineers and technicians it will one day employ.

“These are not low-end workers. It’s not average. It is not the highest doctorate. They are not construction workers,” said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. “It’s everyone across the spectrum that we need.”

He described joining the company after earning an associate’s degree and working his way up. Gelsinger earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working for Intel.

Intel officials say they plan to eventually invest $50 million in the education pipeline to prepare some 9,000 workers for field jobs. But given how the initial investment is diluted in space (eight programs linked to more than 80 institutions) and time (three years), it starts to look modest.

Columbus State President David Harrison was quick to push that back.

He explained that the 23 community colleges have existing programs roughly aligned with Intel’s needs, and the company’s contribution will help them align their efforts. Harrison went on to say that those dollars can help prime the pump for other investments later.

“You know, if I look at other private investments that we’ve had from JP Morgan Chase, from AEP as examples, those have absolutely been catalysts for federal funding and other state opportunities, and we have even helped influence policy by developing case statements around success stories,” Harrison described. “That will absolutely be the fuel for that.”

But the greatest and most immediate job demand will be for construction workers. Intel thinks the fab will need 7,000 to build. They expect to employ only about 3,000 people to operate the facility once it is complete.

Building the structure will be a time-limited job, but speaking the day before the groundbreaking, Dorsey Hager predicted a long string of projects for these construction workers. The executive secretary of Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades gave the example of Facebook’s entry into the region.

“They basically said we were like a McDonald’s,” Hager recalled. “When you walk down an exit (and) see a McDonald’s, you always see a Burger King and a Wendy’s. (They were) absolutely right. That’s why Google is there. That’s why Amazon is also there.

Political cracks

From the stage, the speakers shared a steady stream of mutual appreciation. US Senator Rob Portman described it as an “honor” to lead the CHIPS campaign in the Senate. The measure provides federal funding to companies making semiconductors in America, and Intel has insisted its passage is crucial to their long-term expansion plans in Ohio.

“Each of my Senate and House colleagues here today played an important role,” he said. “In this case, at least, Congress has put aside partisanship and focused on how to close the growing gap in semiconductors and other technologies that will ultimately determine the fate of nations. .”

Portman could afford to be magnanimous. The outgoing senator for two terms will not appear on the November ballot. Helping pass the CHIPS Act and brokering the bipartisan infrastructure package may end up signaling Portman’s final act achievements in public service, but they’ve also only covered up lingering partisan disagreements.

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, D-OH, who is running to replace Portman, sees these public investments as a first step.

“I think it’s a down payment,” Ryan said. “I think the CHIPS law was one thing. We need to talk about what we’re doing with electric vehicles, we need to talk about what we’re doing with natural gas and hydrogen, we need to talk about what we’re doing with artificial intelligence. This must be the first of many steps in our rebuilding of the country’s manufacturing base. »

Senate Republicans had initially threatened to block the CHIPS Act to delay a broader Democratic spending package. But soon after the CHIPS Act was passed, and that leverage was gone, long stalled negotiations came to life again for what eventually became the Cut Inflation Act. Needless to say, Republicans felt some resentment about being left behind by two major spending measures.

So while Ryan sees a starting point, on the other side of the aisle, Rep. Troy Balderson is more inclined to hit the brakes.

“Let’s not go too far ahead and start funneling more money, doing more projects,” Balderson warned. “We know what the needs are right now to get things done. Let’s focus on that and do that first, and then we can do that piece by piece, day by day.

And differences of opinion over public spending were not the only political divisions on display.

Ryan, who has desperately tried to distance himself from the president and his own party, offered a lukewarm response to questions about Biden’s 2024 re-election.

In an interview with WFMJ in Youngstown the day before the groundbreaking, Ryan did not explicitly voice his opposition to a Biden’s re-election, but said he wanted to see a “generational movement” from both parties.

On Friday, he clarified that “I’ve been saying this since 2016” and “that’s what President Biden said too, he’s going to be a bridge to the next generation.”

“I think guys like (Senate Minority Leader Mitch) McConnell shouldn’t run,” he added. “For me, I think it has to be, we need a generational change. That’s my, that’s my opinion.

Pressed on the same point in another interview, Ryan said “well, that’s up to him,” about Biden seeking re-election.

A campaign spokesperson for Ryan’s opponent, Republican JD Vance, lashed out in a statement calling Ryan a “two-faced fraud” for undermining Biden and then standing by him.

“Remember, this is the same Tim Ryan who votes with Joe Biden 100% of the time in Washington, DC and who endorsed Joe Biden for President in the 2020 Democratic primary on many other options,” a- he continued. “Tim Ryan can’t run away from his own record of supporting Biden and his leftist agenda no matter how many times he decides to flip-flop.”

This article was republished with permission from the Ohio Capital Journal. For more political news from Ohio, visit www.ohiocapitaljournal.com.

Bonny J. Streater