Ben Botkin

(Oregon Capital Chronicle) Oregon’s semiconductor industry is ramping up and making plans to expand in the years ahead, as the state and federal officials push companies to expand or move to Oregon.

On Monday, Gov. Tina Kotek notified lawmakers she plans to award Intel $90 million for a semiconductor expansion in Hillsboro. The award is a reminder that the semiconductor industry is poised to grow in Oregon, following the Legislature’s approval of a package of bills that give companies incentives to come to Oregon.

On Wednesday, federal and state lawmakers and industry leaders gathered at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland to talk about the future of Oregon’s semiconductor industry. Oregon’s semiconductor industry is already strong: About 15% of the nation’s semiconductor workforce lives in Oregon, though the state only has about 1.3% of the U.S. population.

An enthusiastic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, ticked off a list of signs pointing toward growth in the state: the Intel expansion, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to Oregon and positive comments and semiconductor manufacturer Analog Devices’ announcement of a more than $1 billion expansion in Beaverton.

“By the way, it’s only Wednesday, but Oregon has had one heck of a week in terms of semiconductors,” Wyden said. “This is a banner time, and it couldn’t be more fitting.”

The move comes about a year after Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act, which makes $52 billion available in incentives.

In response, state lawmakers this year passed the Oregon CHIPS Act, a semiconductor funding bill that is intended to help Oregon businesses have an advantage when they seek some of the $52 billion in federal money.

The Oregon measure, Senate Bill 4, includes $190 million in grants and loans for semiconductor companies seeking federal funding to expand in Oregon, as well as $10 million for research at universities and $10 million to help with land development costs. That bill gives Kotek to authority to award grants such as $90 million to Intel.

The measure also allows Kotek to designate land outside city urban growth boundaries as industrial, which cuts down bureaucratic barriers to expansion and makes it easier to annex land for semiconductor manufacturing projects. For example, Hillsboro, the Oregon headquarters of Intel and focal point of the state’s semiconductor industry, wants to annex hundreds of acres of farmland for a major manufacturing facility.

Growth beyond Portland area

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, whose congressional district encompasses those areas, said Wednesday that the benefits for the industry extend beyond the Portland region.

“We see benefits from this industry, not just here in the metro area or the Silicon Valley area,” she said. “We see them ripple across the state. The people employed in the industry – they have pride in their work. They know the power of innovation, crafting the future, and they appreciate, as we all do, the family wage jobs.”

Oregon lawmakers also approved a $2 million grant program to build a workforce pipeline that offers summer programs and helps students prepare for college and a $1.2 million program to reach underserved and underrepresented youth and help them prepare for careers in the industry.

“This wasn’t just about Beaverton or Hillsboro,” said Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas. “This is about the entire state. So while our job is not finished yet, and further work is needed to be done to capitalize on the moment, we deserve to celebrate today and be proud of what we’ve already accomplished.”

High workforce needs

Officials said Oregon needs to continue to offer training opportunities for people, whether through community colleges, companies or other venues.

Bynum said efforts like the state’s push to invest in literacy and reading will help move the state toward that goal.

“We have to graduate kids that know how to do math, and that can see a future for themselves,” Bynum said. “I think it’s also important that kids can see themselves in these jobs, whether they go to community college, whether they go to a four year university or whether they pursue an advanced degree.”

At Portland Community College, students can prepare through a variety of ways, including dual credit at high schools, internships and certificates and degrees, said college President Adrienne Bennings.
Bennings said partnerships between the public and private sectors are key. For example, a two-week training program that includes Intel prepares students for careers in the field. After students finish, they are guaranteed an interview for an entry-level job and receive a $1,000 scholarship for their education.

Fred Bailey, corporate vice president at Analog Devices, said the company is starting an eight-week training program. It can help a variety of people, such as veterans, existing employees who want to upgrade their skills or college graduates, he said.

The first class starts in October.