Semiconductor bill that would benefit Oregon passes first hurdle

The bill, which would invest more than $50 billion in manufacturing and research and development, passed with a bipartisan 64 to 33 vote

By: - July 27, 2022 4:54 pm

The U.S. Senate passed a semiconductor bill on Wednesday that would benefit Oregon. (Wikimedia Commons)

A congressional bill that would funnel billions of dollars into semiconductor manufacturing has passed its first big hurdle, with approval in the U.S. Senate.

The $280 billion bill passed with a bipartisan 64 to 33 vote. The “CHIPS and Science Act” would allocate $50 billion over five years toward the semiconducter industry and $200 billion for scientific research into artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies.

The bill now goes to the U.S. House, where it is expected to get a vote before the August recess.

Supporters say the bill would help the U.S. compete with China and counteract a global chip shortage caused by the Covid pandemic and associated economic shutdowns. 

Oregonians stand to benefit, thanks in part to the large footprint of Intel in the state. Intel employs 22,000 people in Hillsboro, making Washington County the hub of semiconductor research and development for the country, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat. 

“All the semiconductor industry (nationwide) relies on R&D from Washington County,” Wyden told the Capital Chronicle.

He said the bill would help cement Oregon’s leadership in the industry.

“This is going to allow companies in Oregon to invest in R&D and manufacturing,” Wyden said.

Semiconductor chips are crucial in today’s world: They power electronic devices, from computers, cell phones and cars to televisions and refrigerators. They’re also used in medical equipment and military equipment.

“Strengthening manufacturing in America is a win-win,” said Oregon’s other U.S. senator, Jeff Merkley, also a Democrat. “If we don’t make things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America. Our modern economy is built on tiny chips, and we can grow the middle class and protect our national security with strong domestic supply chains.” 

Besides Washington County’s Silicon Forest, Intel employs more than 12,000 in California’s Silicon Valley, according to Katelynn Loughrin, an Intel spokeswoman. Intel has another 12,000 employees in Arizona and about 2,000 in New Mexico.

In Oregon, Intel opened its first plant in Aloha in 1976. Its first facility in Hillsboro dates to 1996. Its presence there has attracted other companies. Besides Intel, Oregon has about 150 other semiconductor companies that employ more than 10,000 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry also pays high wages, with an average of nearly $155,000 a year, the bureau said.

In 2021, the industry accounted for about $13 billion of Oregon exports, second nationwide behind Texas.

“This is a huge industry sector for Oregon, and one we are highly competitive in,” said Nathan Buehler, spokesman for Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency.”

Besides sales, the semiconductor industry fuels the local economy, spending $3 billion in the state and working with more than 500 suppliers, Loughrin said.

“It’s a huge multiplier,” Wyden said.

Besides the R&D and manufacturing expansion money, the bill includes $24 billion in tax credits, said Wyden, chair of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and co-chair of Oregon’s semiconductor task force. Oregon tax credits helped lure Intel to Hillsboro. The bill also will create technology hubs across the country.

“Oregon is very well-positioned to compete for that,” Wyden said.

In recent months, Intel and other companies have announced expansion plans.

Intel said in April it would build a $700 million “mega lab” in Hillsboro to study ways to help data centers reduce their heating, cooling and water needs. The 200,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in late 2023. 

Another company, NSI, which makes gas and chemical equipment, plans to move this spring from Tigard to Sherwood, increasing its footprint in the state fourfold.

And last year, a Japanese electronics company, Hitachi, said it would build a large semiconductor research facility in Hillsboro, marking an expansion of its existing facilities, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive



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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.