The New Chip City: Intel’s Semiconductor Plant in Columbus

Intel in Columbus is on track to become the largest single manufacturing site in the world.

By Ted Geer / June 2, 2022

Aeriel view of Intel’s expanded headquarters in the Columbus Region

A rendering shows early plans for two new leading-edge Intel processor factories in Licking County, Ohio. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Intel’s decision to invest $20 billion in two new, state-of-the-art semiconductor chip plants in Ohio’s Columbus Region wasn’t exactly a “no brainer” – there has never been a history of Midwest or Ohio semiconductors. But sometimes transformational megaprojects like this require a visionary approach. The brilliance of which becomes much clearer as the fundamentals of the decision have a chance to reveal themselves.

After all, there are multiple reasons the nation’s 14th largest city has quietly become an outpost for other top technology firms like Google and Meta as well as fast-rising startups like Branch, and Olive. They’re part of a mix of enticing ingredients that also has the region becoming a growing force in biomanufacturing (see Amgen’s announcement) and electric & hydrogen vehicles (see Forsee Power’s announcement).

“The region has a proud heritage as an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse, it sits near the fast-growing Columbus metropolitan area, it has a robust existing infrastructure with the capacity for future growth, and a strong talent pipeline sustained by world-class educational institutions in the area,” writes Keyvan Esfarjani, senior vice president and general manager of Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Operations for Intel, in his Columbus Dispatch op-ed following the company’s decision in January 2022.

“The site is also within a day’s drive to every major Midwest city, making it possible to create an ecosystem across the entire region.”

The initial investment is for 3,000 workers to fill two initial “fabs” is projected to come online by 2025. However, the 1,000-acre central Ohio semiconductor manufacturing site can accommodate six additional factories with the scale to reach $100 billion in investment over the next decade. That could make Intel’s semiconductor plant the largest single manufacturing site in the world. 

The investment is part of Intel’s IDM 2.0 strategy and a response to the increasing vulnerabilities of the industry supply chain revealed during the pandemic. To ensure not just short-term success, but also the sustainability of such an immense site, the largest U.S.-based chip manufacturer has pledged an additional $100 million alongside the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The pledge will go toward partnerships with educational institutions to build a pipeline of talent and bolster research programs in the region. That is a crucial factor to the overall development of Ohio semiconductors, but one the Columbus Region is well suited for. The region has a young, growing talent pool with more than 50 colleges and universities nearby, a workforce of 1.2 million and one of the largest concentrations of millennials in the country.

The NSF will play a vital role in the research and curriculum development of STEM programs at two-year, four-year, and community colleges. These programs will improve and build upon semiconductor design and manufacturing across the United States.

A Tech Hub of the Future

Adding to the future focused aspect of Intel in Ohio, which is now the largest manufacturing investment in the state’s history, the chip maker will design and build the new factories with its 2030 sustainability goals in mind, aiming for 100% renewable power and zero contribution to landfills.

There is a lot to like, but with no prior expertise for semiconductors in Ohio of any kind, does Intel Corp. in Columbus still make sense? One should consider the stories of two prior locations that never had that track record before – Silicon Valley in the 50’s and Greater Phoenix in the 80’s, both massive chip-production success stories and lasting impacts on the semiconductor industry.

Considering the Columbus Region has more core fundamentals for both technological and industrial success than either of those previous first-timers, it is no wonder there is already talk of building the largest semiconductor site on the planet.

Looking to catch the U.S. semiconductor wave? The Columbus Region is closer to more of the U.S. manufacturing base – and critical supply chains – than any other major city.  Contact us today to learn how we can guide your company through the location decision process.

Ted Geer serves as the Manager of the Semiconductor Sector for One Columbus.

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