29 June 2022
RALEIGH – According to a state budget proposal released on Tuesday, North Carolina appears to be taking aim, again, at luring a semiconductor chip manufacturer to Chatham County.
The description does not name the manufacturer, but would allocate the “sum of one hundred twelve million five hundred thousand dollars” to secure a commitment from a company with “a qualifying project in Chatham County.”
Such a project would be one that would receive a Job Development Investment Grant, JDIG, from the state’s Economic Investment Committee that would tie a minimum job creation target of 1,800 eligible positions and an investment of at least $4.8 billion in private funds. In the budget proposal, this appears in section 11.10.(a) of the document, on page 120.
State lawmakers declined to go into specifics about the project during a news conference late Tuesday, saying such a project has not yet been announced.
Chatham County sites
Chatham County is home to Triangle Innovation Point, a so-called megasite that was selected by VinFast earlier this year for the construction of an automotive assembly plant.
WRAL TechWire had previously reported that Triangle Innovation Point was under consideration by at least two semiconductor companies looking to North Carolina for possible investment and expansion. But in mid-January, it was reported that the firm was no longer interested in North Carolina.
While there are still portions of Triangle Innovation Point that would be available for future economic development, such as an announcement from FedEx that they would be locating a facility at the megasite, there is another possible option in the county for a semiconductor facility.
That’s the Chatham Advanced Manufacturing site, or CAM.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of interest and activity in Chatham County,” Michael Smith, president of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, told WRAL TechWire earlier this year. “We’re getting a number of looks from a lot of large operations, and we’re very fortunate for that.”
And those conversations have accelerated in the last 6-12 months, said Smith. “A lot of major operations are looking to shorten their supply chains,” he added.
North Carolina could still appeal to semiconductor firms
And even though one firm crossed North Carolina off of its consideration list, others may remain interested in locating a facility in the state, an industry executive told WRAL TechWire in January.
“I think, eventually, and I can’t say the timeframe, a large semiconductor company will end up here,” said an executive in the semiconductor industry who requested anonymity. “Where else could they go?”
North Carolina is a great state for the semiconductor industry, and sites in North Carolina would make wonderful locations for firms of all sizes, the source told WRAL TechWire. “It’s a nice place to live,” the executive said. “We have a supply chain, we have talented people, and we have a willing utility company in Duke Energy.”
Axios reported this morning that multiple sources told the publication that one company considering expansion in the state and at a Chatham County site was Wolfspeed.
Wolfspeed, formerly Cree, is a manufacturer of silicon carbide semiconductors that is headquartered in Research Triangle Park, and recently opened a new manufacturing facility in New York and announced a new partnership with electric vehicle maker Lucid.
Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe told WRAL TechWire in February that he anticipated demand for semiconductor chips would continue to increase, noting that the company was well-positioned to meet the growing demand due to prior decisions to invest in its Triangle facility and its new facility in New York.
“The demand for semiconductor chips continues to increase,” Lowe told WRAL TechWire in February following the passage of the U.S. CHIPS Act, which allocated some $52 billion in funding to semiconductor companies considering expansion in the country. “I will say that the probability that you will see more announcements here in the United States will be higher,” Lowe said at the time. He added that the federal funding could play a role in North Carolina’s economy, noting that the state would be very competitive for attracting semiconductor companies.
“We’re a shining example of that,” said Lowe. “With the expansion of our Durham campus.”
A spokesperson for Wolfspeed told WRAL TechWire this morning that the company “does not comment on external speculation or rumors about our business operations or plans.”
This is a developing story and may be updated. Jack Hagel contributed to this report.