In a town where groundbreaking ceremonies seem to have become a sport of one-upmanship between developers, Micron Technology stole the prize for the showiest groundbreaking to date in Treasure Valley. The firm broke the area’s notoriously tough subsurface basalt with a literal blast at its newest building site, leaving plumes of red, white and blue smoke from the blast to drift in the wind. The occasion of the groundbreaking was to celebrate the beginning of construction of the first memory chip fabrication facility, or “fab,” in the United States in 20 years.
The new fab became possible in August after President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which allocated billions of dollars to support the research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the U.S. through subsidies and tax credits to chip makers.
The ceremony drew visits from a larger pool of dignitaries than usual, including the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Alondra Nelson, U.S. Sen. James Risch, Gov. Brad Little and Boise Mayor Lauren McLean.
The groundbreaking included both the traditional flinging of dirt from shovels by the dignitaries present. The fact that the groundbreaking was an explosive event did not escape the attention of the dignitaries, each of whom had remarks for the crowd of over 200 hundred attendees.
Granholm stated: “(Micron) is going to help create an economy that’s far more resilient against the challenges of the 21st century. It just goes to show when public and private sector come together, amazing things happen…On behalf of America’s of 330 million citizens, thank you for showing that America can be competitive, and America can build supply chains, and America is back in manufacturing, and I look forward to underscoring that shortly with a bang.”
Risch’s comments were perhaps the most unusual. He presented a bite-sized history of the CHIPS and Science Act passage through Congress, which is not the typical fare for a groundbreaking. Risch also took the honors for the best humor of any of the speakers, when he followed Little’s remarks, saying: “I’m going to be brief and one of the reasons for that is we have a constitutional provision in Idaho that requires that no speaker can speak longer than the governor, that the governor reminds me of all the time. He claims I had a hand in writing that provision, which is mostly not true.”
When completed, the new facility at Micron will be over 600,000 square feet, according to Micron President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, and will house the largest clean room in the country. Micron will invest over $15 billion in new manufacturing facilities making it the largest private investment in the history of Idaho. The fab will bring over 2,000 new Micron jobs to the area as well as 15,000 indirect jobs, according to Mehrotra.
After President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law on Aug. 9, Micron did not announce the new fab construction right away, despite the attendance by Mayor McLean at the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C. The firm made its formal announcement on Sept. 1 that it would build in Boise. Other cities that were said to be in the running were Austin, Texas and Syracuse, New York, according to the Tribune News Service.
April Arnzen, senior vice president and chief people officer at Micron, told the Idaho Business Review immediately after the groundbreaking that there were multiple reasons for placing the new fab in Boise: “The reason we chose Boise is in part because of the great partnerships that we’ve had with the governor, with the state legislators and with the City of Boise in the mayor’s office. They’ve been incredible to work with, and they are providing, of course, tax incentives, but infrastructure too — so road infrastructure, water infrastructure, wastewater treatment…Also because (the facility) is co-located with our research and development efforts, we get some additional synergies and efficiency when we develop the technology here in our Research and Development Innovation Center. We’re able to transfer it to the manufacturing facility much more quickly so we can get technology and products out the door faster.”
Arnzen also remarked that this might not be the end to Micron’s efforts to locate new facilities: “I do want to make sure you know we are still looking for an additional high-volume (facility)…So we could be making some additional announcements about other investments. This will not be the only investment that we make.”
That unnamed and yet unannounced additional facility will be in the U.S., since Arnzen implied: “We will make an additional investment for a high-volume manufacturing…We’re considering multiple states. We’re in the final stages and hopefully we’ll have some announcements soon.”