US Commerce Secretary confirms possible large Micron Boise expansion, urges passage of CHIPS Act

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 20:05:50-04

BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published by Margaret Carmel in BoiseDev.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Idaho reporters Friday a major manufacturing expansion is slated for Boise, but only if Congress passes a package of incentives for the semiconductor industry this week.

Raimondo confirmed BoiseDev’s exclusive reporting from last fall that Idaho-headquartered Micron is looking to build a fabrication plant in Boise, bringing thousands of jobs. This is part of a nationwide push amid a semiconductor shortage to build domestic production and lessen the United States’ reliance on Taiwan for the vast majority of its chip supply.

On a call with reporters from Idaho and Texas, Raimondo said both states have major deals in the works for new semiconductor manufacturing plants if the CHIPS act passes, noting both states “have a lot to gain and the most to lose” depending on the outcome of Congress’s expected Tuesday vote.

She said not passing these incentives means these semiconductor companies, like Micron, Samsung and Global Wafers, will move on other offers from foreign countries to relocate there instead of staying in the United States. Raimondo said losing steady access to semiconductors, which power nearly all technology in use today, would have “devastating consequences” for American economy as well as national security.

“The United States is overly dependent on foreign companies for our supply of chips which makes us incredibly vulnerable,” Raimondo told reporters. “All you have to do is look at what’s happening in Russia right now. You’re literally seeing Russian military equipment falling out of the sky because it doesn’t work because it has chips in that equipment Russians have taken from fridges and dishwashers to put in the military equipment. That could be us.”

Boise and Idaho impacts

Passage of the act could have significant impacts in Boise and in Idaho.

The Idaho Legislature passed, and Gov. Brad Little signed, a piece of legislation that would provide significant tax breaks for Idaho semiconductor manufacturing expansion. The legislation is tied to the passage of the federal bill, which could give Micron tax breaks both at the state and federal levels. Micron would also benefit from 2008 legislation that inadvertently capped its property tax burden in Ada County – meaning an expansion would incur no additional property taxes.

As BoiseDev has reported, based on extensive interviews, the company has targeted its site in southeast Boise for expansion. The Idaho Department of Commerce said a project valued at more than $1.8 billion could be in the offing. While it did not tie the investment to Micron, many of the publicly-available details match.

Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra appears on Capitol Hill during a hearing Wednesday morning.
Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra appears on Capitol Hill during a hearing Wednesday morning. Via US Senate

Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra appears on Capitol Hill during a hearing Wednesday morning. Via US Senate

The Idaho Department of Labor lists Micron as the largest for-profit employer in the state, with 5,000-6,000 employees (St. Luke’s Health System employs more people, but operates as a non-profit). Currently, the Boise operation serves as Micron’s lead research and development facility, and the company has poured in significant investment in the last decade. But most chip manufacturing now happens overseas.

Testifying to Congress this spring, Mehrotra said his company’s expansion plans are significant, and that domestic expansion would only be possible without the incentives.

“We continue to explore plans to build new fabs in the United States. Our expansion plans, if executed, would constitute one of the largest single semiconductor investments in the history of the United States,” Mehrotra said. “It would require close coordination with federal and state partners to ensure the economic viability of our operations in a global, competitive marketplace.”

BoiseDev’s Don Day contributed reporting.