President Joe Biden on Friday celebrated the groundbreaking of a new $20 billion semiconductor plant in Ohio, as his administration also begins to break ground on the federal bill boosting funding for chip manufacturing across the country.
Biden traveled to Licking County, outside Columbus, less than two months before midterm elections, joined by both republicans Governor Mike DeWine and Sen. Rob Portman, plus Democratic Senate candidate Tim Ryan, who had previously kept his distance from appearing with Biden at Ohio events.
Intel had delayed its plant’s groundbreaking until the CHIPS and Science Act became law, which it did with Biden’s signature last month. The bill
The factory is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and later 3,000 full-time jobs manufacturing some of the most advanced semiconductor chips, which are used for technology such as vehicles, smartphones and home appliances.
The president on Friday hammered home his focus on domestic manufacturing, a key tenet of his economic blueprint ahead of November’s midterms.
“Folks, we need to make these chips right here in America, bring down everyday costs and create good jobs,” he said.
Intel on Friday also announced that it has distributed $17.7 million to Ohio colleges and universities for chip-focused education and workforce programs, part of a larger $50 million Ohio program. They are partnering with the National Science Foundation to invest $100 million in similar efforts across the U.S.
The CHIPS law includes $50 billion meant to revitalize the domestic semiconductor industry, and the Commerce Department announced plans for the money’s rollout this week.
In the meantime, the White House said that in the last few weeks, other companies besides Intel have gotten on board: Micron will spend $15 billion on a memory chip factory in Idaho, GlobalFoundries will expand its New York facility with $4.2 billion, and Toyota recently announced a $2.5 billion investment in its Greensboro, N.C. battery plant.
Biden called the CHIPS law a “game changer” for the country.
“This is about our economic security. It's about our national security,” he said. “Jobs now. Jobs for the future. Jobs in every part of the country, we’re not going to leave a part behind.”
“Jobs that show the industrial Midwest is back,” he emphasized.
Biden also gave a nod to Congressman Ryan, thanking him for his leadership, after Ryan said in a TV interview with Youngstown's WFMJ on the eve of Biden's visit that he is “campaigning as an independent.” When asked if Biden should seek a second term, Ryan said, “My hunch is that we need new leadership across the board, Democrats, Republicans, I think it's time for like a generational move.”
He clarified those comments on Friday, saying: “The president said in the very beginning he was going to be a bridge to the next generation, which is basically what I was saying.”
Asked if Biden should run again, he said: “That’s up to him.”
The open Senate seat in Ohio, currently held by the retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, is one of several hotly contested races that could determine whether Democrats can hold their slim majority in the chamber for the second half of Biden's term.
J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, hailed the Intel plant in a statement as “a great bipartisan victory” for the state. He specifically applauded the “hard work” of GOP lawmakers including DeWine and Portman, but Vance pointedly made no mention of Biden.
The shortage of semiconductors has plagued the U.S. and global economies. It cut into production of autos, household appliances and other goods in ways that fueled high inflation, while creating national security risks as the U.S. recognized its dependence on Asia for chip production.
The mix of high prices and long waits for basic goods has left many Americans feeling disgruntled about Biden's economic leadership, a political weakness that has lessened somewhat as gasoline prices have fallen and many voters have grown concerned about the loss of abortion protections after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The new CHIPS law would provide $28 billion in incentives for semiconductor production, $10 billion for new manufacturing of chips and $11 billion for research and development. The funding follows similar efforts by Europe and China to accelerate chip production, which political leaders see as essential for competing economically and militarily.
Lawmakers crafted the semiconductor investments to favor areas outside the wealthier coastal cities where tech dominates. That means change will be coming to the Ohio city of New Albany, where the Intel plant is being constructed, as well as nearby Johnstown.