Project Intel’s Impact Will Extend Far Beyond New Albany

Last Friday, Intel officially announced plans to build a $20 billion semiconductor fab in New Albany, kicking off a steady stream of speeches and statements emphasizing the historic nature of the project. At an event in Newark, Governor Mike DeWine was joined by company officials, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and a host of local politicians and officials representing all levels of government.

Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden hosted a White House event with Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger touting the importance of the new factory amid domestic manufacturing capacity and global shortages. computer chips.

We thought of consulting local experts who are not directly involved in the project to try to get an idea of ​​the scale and a better idea of ​​the changes that could occur in the region as a result of the investment. .

“I think [the hype] warranted,” says Rob Vogt, director of real estate market research firm Vogt Strategic Insight. “I have no reason to believe that 3,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs aren’t realistic…these are really the ‘car manufacturing’ jobs of the 70s and 80s. I’m very excited about this for the central Ohio.

Jon Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio, agrees that this is “an incredible opportunity for Central Ohio…the scope of this project has the potential to provide thousands of jobs in the region.

Both Melchi and Vogt think the impact on the housing market will be significant, and both mentioned affordability as a concern.

“We’ve underdeveloped this market for almost 15 years, and while we’ve made progress in closing that gap, it’s clearly had an impact on housing affordability,” says Melchi. “Now we are talking about adding a project that is likely to make us even more of a magnet for growth. Local governments are going to have to work very intentionally and deliberately with the building and development community to ensure that we create housing opportunities for people at all levels of the employment chain for this project. We cannot just focus on executive accommodation.

(Read more: Why it’s so hard to build affordable housing)

The new factory – or fab, in industry terminology – will be located south of Green Chapel Road, between Clover Valley Road and Mink Street; land that is now in New Albany after being annexed from Jersey Township. Initial plans call for the development of a thousand acres of farmland, but Intel said future expansions could mean multiple factories would be built, spanning 3,000 acres. According to Google Maps, the driving time to the site is 37 minutes from downtown Columbus, 26 minutes from Newark, 19 minutes from Granville, 13 minutes from New Albany City Hall and 6 minutes from Johnstown .

“I think that could be the catalyst for us to see higher density housing in suburban neighborhoods because those areas have the infrastructure to deliver the services,” Vogt says. “It will take some time for places like Newark and Johnstown to put in place the infrastructure to support additional single-family housing, which many of the 3,000 workers will want. But I also see a share of working people who want higher density and quality housing in walkable neighborhoods in or near Columbus…Hopefully that’s what inspires those communities to allow more.

“I think it will be another boom for the city center as well,” Vogt adds. “The drive to New Albany isn’t that hard from downtown and we know how many more upscale apartments are coming to downtown Columbus.”

Brian Yeager, co-founder and CEO of The Champion Companies, a property development and management firm specializing in multi-family projects, is more bullish on suburban markets.

“Over the past decade, we have observed three major trends, which will be accelerated by this project: a need for more housing options to support the city’s continued growth, a steady increase in preference for multi-family housing and the desire to live in the suburbs,” says Yeager. “Intel’s semiconductor plant is likely to fuel these trends with multi-family investment and development businesses expanding outside of Columbus proper at a record pace.”

Not much is known about the infrastructure investments that might be needed to support the project, and the state has not released details of the incentives. The plant will require a huge amount of water to operate, and there will be big transportation impacts – one of the few investments that was mentioned is a potential plan to widen State Route 161.

Vogt says another potential issue is the impact on local school districts; “Suburban school districts are already screaming when new residential developments come into their district…it will create a lot of additional problems.”

Also, in the context of an already tight construction market – where the demand for general contractors and industrial workers currently exceeds supply – the impact of the project on the local labor market will be considerable.

“While we’ve spent a lot of time talking, and rightly so, about the high-tech careers to come with this project, they wouldn’t exist without the construction industry building these facilities and all the infrastructure that goes with it. “, says Melchi. “It is estimated that 7,000 construction jobs will be needed to build this project and we are already in a tight labor market. If anyone is considering a career change, the ladder of opportunity in the construction industry can offer great opportunities today. »

The proposed facility. Route 63 is the road that runs along the northern edge of the site. All images courtesy of Intel.

Bonny J. Streater