Oregon’s Semiconductor Industry Will Support Job Growth As More Federal Money Is Expected
With $50 billion in federal funding being made available as part of the CHIPS Act that was passed in 2022, semiconductor firms in Oregon will benefit, resulting in the growth of the number of jobs in this sector.
Around $200 million is being made available to businesses such as Intel and HP to expand existing or build new facilities in Oregon. Semiconductor company Microchip is also getting $72 million in federal funding to expand its computer chip manufacturing capacity in Gresham — and it appears that this is just the start of federal funding flowing to Oregon chip makers.
At the moment the industry- which includes companies that manufacture, research, develop, and/or design the computer chips that are essential in making technology function, employs about 30,000 Oregonians. This number will swell by about 3,000 jobs over the next eight years according to an estimate by state economists. Experts watching the industry closely indicate that the infusion of funds could entice companies to move forward with expansion plans in Oregon. This in turn will see the job growth projections become a reality.
With federal CHIPS Act funding slated to be released in phases, Rajesh Rao- a leader at the global consulting firm Ernst & Young, expects a bigger share of the billions in still-to-be-distributed funds to go to companies operating in Oregon. “This semiconductor industry is highly specialized,” he said. Oregon is one of only a few states within the United States with capability in terms of the workforce and the ecosystem. Rao believes that all the incentives are present in Oregon.
With a growing number of workers trained in skills related to semiconductor development in the state, Rao- who advises semiconductor companies, also indicated that a lot of jobs are being created. There are also many initiatives in community colleges and universities aligned with the education programs that the industry needs.
Director of data analytics at Portland-based consulting firm ECO Northwest, Mike Wilkerson indicated that their data found that the semiconductor industry is more important to Oregon than any other industry in any other state. He confirmed that companies that are committed to manufacturing semiconductors are the biggest beneficiaries of federal and state money. This is partly because federal and state leaders want to entice companies to move production to or retain it in, the U.S.
Wilkerson said, “It’s taking a decision that a company maybe was on the fence on.” The funding could also tip the scale a little bit where companies may not be feeling competitive. The funds can help to decide to invest or to expedite the timeline. He indicated that it takes a lot of time- like 10 to 15 years, and money to build a semiconductor manufacturing facility, which is called a fab. However, Oregon is a strong candidate for federal funding because of the workforce, state support, and presence of several well-known companies in the state.
Made up of more than 100 different occupations across the spectrum of developing and building chips, the semiconductor industry in Oregon has companies that represent the full range of the industry, and the sector also has the highest average wage in the state. According to Wilkerson, Oregon’s competitive edge isn’t solely in attracting manufacturing, as it also appeals to businesses that research, develop, and design semiconductors.
The grants from the federal and state governments are not expected to create a semiconductor hub overnight where one didn’t exist. The financial injection could help proposed projects to move from the drawing board to the ground in Oregon and other states with an established semiconductor industry, or it could spark momentum for expansion projects that firms already had in the pipeline. Overall, semiconductor companies in Oregon are expected to add around 3,000 jobs over the next few years.