‘Mega fab’: Micron official won’t say Boise’s in the running for expansion – but won’t deny it either

Micron Boise
Posted at 4:54 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 18:54:43-04

This article was originally published by Don Day in BoiseDev.

A top Micron Technology leader wouldn’t confirm if the company is looking to build a so-called “mega fab” in Boise. But he wouldn’t deny it either.

“Fab” is industry lingo for a fabrication plant.

Micron’s SVP and General Counsel Rob Beard told BoiseDev that with the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act passed by Congress last month, the Boise-based company would look to make a decision on where to build facilitates in the US in the coming weeks.

“We’ve wanted to build a mega-fab in the US for a long time. Now that this legislation is in place, we are able to make some investment decisions. We are looking at several different places and it’s a competitive process.”

As BoiseDev has reported since last fall, based on extensive reporting and questions of sources surrounding the company, Boise is one of the locations in the running for expansion. The US Commerce Secretary confirmed the reporting last month. But Micron has not.

In the running?

When we asked Beard if Boise is one of the sites in the running, he said it would be a “bad idea” to comment on any of the places and noted an announcement would come in the weeks ahead.

Last month, while pressing for passage of the CHIPS and Science bill, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondotold BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmelthat Micron was looking to expand in Idaho. We asked if Raimondo was wrong.

“I would not want to criticize the Commerce Secretary. I wouldn’t do that,” Beard said. “We are looking at several different places. It’s a competitive process, and it runs best when we are careful about confidentially.”

He did say that the locations in the running do know they are part of the process and have for quite some time.

The potential for expansion in Boise first caught BoiseDev’s attention when Boise Mayor Lauren McLean was absent from a November 2021 Boise City Council meeting. The City of Boise’sspokesperson at the time told us she was on a business attraction mission for the city. Since that initial reporting, three sources with direct knowledge of the project have told BoiseDev that Boise is a potential site for expansion. And a large number of other sources wouldn’t deny it was.

The Idaho Legislature passed a bill, which Gov. Little signed, providing tax breaks to semiconductor makers to expand in Idaho.

The stakes for Boise and Idaho are high. Beard said the mega-fab site could contribute “thousands of jobs.”

“The mega-fab is a multi-phase concept where you’d start construction in the next few months and you’d take many years to build,” he said. “It would have many phases, many fabs, and lots of clean room space. It’s a big multi-phase project.”

Boise site possibilities

CNBC anchor Sara Eisen asked Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra about BoiseDev’s reporting last month.

“There are reports, I don’t believe you’ve confirmed them yet, that you are looking at building a fabrication plant in Boise, Idaho… is that true,” Eisen asked. What are your plans?”

“We have not confirmed the sites yet. We are evaluating multiple sites across the US in terms of site selection,” Mehrotra said. “Of course, Micron is headquartered out of Boise, Idaho. We of course, are looking at potential opportunity for manufacturing. But no decision is made yet, but the matter is of great urgency, as we’ll be making our decision in the next few months…”

Micron owns large land holdings near its campus on Federal Way near I-84. The JR Simplot Co. and JRS Properties also own large tracts of land in the area. JR Simplot was an early investor in Micron.

Micron Technology and the JR Simplot Co. are major landowners in the area near the Boise chipmaker’s campus. BoiseDev graphic

“We have more than 6,000 team members in Boise,” Bear said. “Boise has been R&D powerhouse of those companies, and we hope that continues to be true. We’re always thinking about what we could do at the Boise site and evaluating that, and no matter what we do in the future, we have options.”

Why Boise wants high-paying jobs

Earlier this year, on the BoiseDev Podcast, we asked McLean about possible Micron expansion. While she wouldn’t comment, she did talk about why the city works to attract high-paying jobs like a new fabrication plant might provide.

“Wages need to rise,” McLean said. “As more and more people bring their jobs here, and make it harder for Boiseans to buy homes — if we want to try and change that dynamic, we also have to do everything we can as a city to create more opportunity for our citizens because that will lift wages and help make homes more affordable.”

She said workers on traditional Boise-type salaries are now competing with people who might not be.

“We’re competing in this world where jobs are from everywhere,” she said. “My neighbor could be getting a San Francisco salary and be just fine in his home, we have Boise salaries, right? So we have to take steps from an economic development standpoint to help lift wages.”

McLean will be in DC for the signing of the CHIPS and Science Act Tuesday. She said the act will “bolster” the city’s work to attract employers.