My View: Congress must bolster semiconductor industry
Oregon's largest industrial sector, manufacturing, is well-positioned to revitalize an economy stifled by the COVID pandemic. For over two years, businesses in the state have been hindered by supply chain shortages. As we work to build back, Oregonians have an opportunity to lead the way in semiconductor production, a critical input in almost all of today's electronics, but not without action first in Congress.
Semiconductors, such as chips and transistors, are a vital component in almost all of our everyday technology, from mobile phones and fitness trackers to solar panels and electric vehicles. Unfortunately, demand for semiconductors from nearly every sector of the economy has outstripped supply, contributing to a global shortage of this crucial input and costing our economy growth and adding to inflation.
This shortage and its resulting challenges for Oregon businesses underscore the need for increased domestic manufacturing capacity. Oregon is well-positioned to play a strong role in this effort and is already leading the way in addressing this crisis.
For perspective, more than 45% of Oregon's exports involve semiconductors or related products. Semiconductor producer Intel employs more than 22,000 people, making it Oregon's largest private sector employer, and several more Oregon-based companies design and produce semiconductors and component parts employing Oregonians throughout the state.
Companies in this field are looking to increase domestic production, which will have profoundly positive impacts on our economy while also decreasing our dependence on overseas producers of semiconductors. We should position Oregon as well as possible, with land use, economic development, regulatory and tax policies that allow innovative businesses to thrive. Much of that will be state and local policy. But in this case, not all politics is local.
Congress is currently contemplating the Creating Helpful Incentives for the Production of Semiconductors for America Act, also known as the CHIPS Act, which establishes investments and incentives to support businesses in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and supply chain security. This federal legislation would supercharge domestic semiconductor manufacturing and create more well-paying manufacturing jobs in Oregon.
Elected officials in Oregon are acutely aware of the economic growth the semiconductor industry could provide. A semiconductor task force, co-chaired by Sen. Ron Wyden, Gov. Kate Brown, and PGE CEO Maria Pope, was formed to look for ways to re-energize the state's semiconductor industry. Meanwhile, the CHIPS Act sits before Congress awaiting movement. Oregonians are taking action; it is time for action in Washington, D.C., too.
Manufacturing is a foundational portion of Oregon's economy, and manufacturing jobs pay very well compared to other industries. These jobs provide economic opportunity regardless of educational attainment and they help close wage gaps for people of color. Manufacturing represents at least 10% of the jobs in half of Oregon's counties. While semiconductors are not, by any stretch, the entirety of this important sector, they are a big part of it.
The CHIPS Act before Congress is an opportunity we cannot let slip by. Approval of funding provisions on semiconductor production would not only alleviate long-term supply challenges, it would strengthen Oregon's economy and the nation's global competitiveness. Congress should pass the CHIPS Act.
Angela Wilhelms is the president & CEO of Oregon Business & Industry, the state's largest general statewide business association and Oregon's affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers. OBI represents more than 1,600 member companies which employ more than 250,000 Oregonians across the entire state.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.