Ambassador Tai is latest top official to visit Intel in Hillsboro
Intel's sprawling campus in Hillsboro has been a popular place for politicians to visit lately.
Earlier this week, the company celebrated the grand opening of Mod3, a $3 billion addition to its D1X computer chip manufacturing plant expansion, adding to its already sizable footprint in North Hillsboro. It announced new job openings and training programs to fill them.
Gov. Kate Brown attended the event as a show of support, just a week after visiting the campus to sign the Future Ready Oregon spending package into law. It includes a $200 million workforce training investment by the state into engineering and healthcare professions.
This week, U.S. trade representative and ambassador Katherine Tai visited Intel to tour the new facility and speak about ways the United States is competing with China and other countries to stay on the cutting edge of microchip processing.
Speaking at the Ronler Acres campus on Wednesday, April 13, Tai specifically referenced the Indo-Pacific economic framework, an initiative by the Biden administration to try and compete with China in the region. She said the semiconductor industry will be a large part of that framework.
"Semiconductors themselves are a platform technology that touch so many different sectors of our economy," said Tai, a member of President Joe Biden's Cabinet. In her role, Tai is the president's top trade advisor and diplomat.
She added, "I would very much expect that in the Indo-Pacific Trade Framework, that we would have semiconductors touch every pillar of that as well."
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley accompanied Tai on her visit to Intel's largest Hillsboro campus, talking about more direct efforts to attract jobs to Oregon and keep the Silicon Forest as the producer of the world's most powerful computer chips.
"Oregon — right here at Intel — we make the most powerful chips anywhere," said Wyden. "Nobody can compete with that. Yes, Ohio is working on chips that are going to be useful for the automotive industry, but being able to make chips that are the most powerful chips anywhere is a very good start."
He was referencing the announcement of a $20 billion commitment by Intel to build semiconductor factories just outside of Columbus, Ohio.
At a virtual town hall meeting Merkley held for Washington County constituents last week, he said of the planned Ohio Intel campus that he "wished these jobs were coming to Oregon, obviously."
But both senators stressed the importance of Intel's continuing expansion in Washington County as a sign that the investments in Oregon's economy will continue.
"(Intel chief executive) Pat Gelsinger committed to me as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he said he'd expand here, and what we saw on Monday is them following through," Wyden said, referencing the D1X expansion that opened earlier this week.
Both specifically referenced the bipartisan infrastructure package Congress passed late last year, which will fund projects in Oregon for the next five years — particularly in areas like water supply, roads and public transit, and broadband.
"I was thinking about what are the reasons that Intel has thrived here in Oregon?" Merkley said. "And one is power, one is water and one is the academic inputs. One is the tax structure, and one is the incredible labor force we have in the construction trades on the plumbing side and with all the gasses that need to be routed around the building, as well as the electricians."
With these all being key to the semiconductor industry, the senators said these federal and state infrastructure projects will be a big part of maintaining the kind of growth that Intel has seen in Washington County — with some 22,000 employees and counting.
But one of the recurring themes of the visit by Tai and the members of Congress was how the United States will get other countries — particularly China, its largest economic competitor — to "play fair" on the global scale.
"We want to make sure that in the global competition, the playing field is fair," Merkley said. "It came up earlier in conversation today that China said, 'If you come here, we'll build a (semiconductor) fab for you. Well, this is where the hard work of our ambassador comes, to make sure that America gets a fair shake."
Wyden and Merkley both pointed to the newly formed Oregon Semiconductor Taskforce, which Wyden co-chairs, as another pipeline for prioritizing infrastructure investments and continuing this industry's growth.
Merkley said that the recommendations coming out of that taskforce — of which Intel officials and Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway are members — will be key to how Congress moves forward.
"Intel is a worldwide company," Merkley said. "But we want to make sure that their very favorite place in the world is Oregon. We still have the ingredients that make this a wonderful place for Intel to thrive."
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