Shoring Up Semiconductors

Across North America, companies and locations are moving semiconductor manufacturing and ecosystems closer to home.

TSMC’s impact in the Grand Canyon state goes far beyond its high-tech fab operations. Since the company’s announcement, a steady-stream of Taiwan-based suppliers have also announced Arizona expansions. The sum of investments from just publicly announced projects already exceeds $1 billion, including companies like LCY Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, and Chang Chun, which plans to build a $400 million, 540,000-square-foot facility south of Phoenix. More suppliers are reported in the pipeline.

Additional semiconductor expansions in Arizona in just the last nine months include Solvay, a producer of electronic grade hydrogen peroxide; Yield Engineering Systems, which develops and manufactures equipment to build microchips; Edwards, a leading supplier of vacuum and abatement services; XNRGY, one of North America’s largest custom air handling manufacturers; EMD Electronics, a maker of equipment for gas and chemical delivery systems; and Leonardo, which manufacturers laser diodes north of Tucson.

These companies join nearly 200 semiconductor establishments in the state and promise to add to its rapidly expanding industry base. Already among the top four states in the country for semiconductor manufacturing employment, Arizona saw the fastest industry job growth between 2016 and 2020 at 16%.

Arizona’s ascension as the nation’s hottest destination for new semiconductor investments follows more than a half century of chip technology leadership. As far back as the 1950s, Motorola was developing groundbreaking transistors at its research and development lab in Phoenix. The state has continued to demonstrate outsized leadership, including facilitating an effort over the past year to develop a national economic roadmap to enhance U.S. chip competitiveness and increase collaboration among states.

Arizona’s industry growth is bolstered by world-renowned universities and community colleges, such as Arizona State University, which boasts nearly 27,000 students enrolled in engineering programs—a 190% increase since 2010.

As America’s microchip industry enters a new era of chip manufacturing and research, expect Arizona to continue to be a major player attracting new investments.

Henrico County, VA: World-Class Infrastructure For the New Era

Henrico County, Virginia has a rich history of supporting the data industry, which dates back almost 30 years. In the 1990s, Henrico County invested $44 million to develop White Oak Technology Park. Today, the master-planned, publicly-owned industrial park is packed with the power, utilities, and infrastructure that businesses need.

semiconductor manufacturing
White Oak Technology Park in Henrico County, VA is built with the infrastructure the semiconductor industry needs to flourish. (Photo: Henrico Economic Development Authority)

White Oak Technology Park is a premier manufacturing campus that covers 2,270 acres. In addition, nearly 500 acres of shovel-ready industrial land is available for development. The infrastructure of the area, and fast-track permitting, can help businesses advance quickly. The campus features a dual feed 230kV transmission system with multiple distribution substations and 34.5kV circuit. There is also a natural gas system with 24-150 PSI, 10 MGD water, and 13+ MGD sewer capacity with pump stations on site. To help companies support renewable energy, the Dominion Energy Green Power program matches up to 100% electricity use with renewable energy through the use of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from wind and solar facilities in Virginia.

The industrial park was among the top factors that enticed Qimonda AG, one of the world’s leading suppliers of semiconductor memory products, to build a one-million-square-foot facility. That inspired more investment, and in 2001, semiconductor solutions company Infineon invested more than $1 billion on the campus to construct a wafer-fabrication facility.

Location is an important consideration for semiconductor and other data-related industries, and Henrico County, and White Oak Technology Park, are located within 100 miles of Virginia suppliers and vendor hubs. Businesses in the area have quick access to major highways I-64, I-295, I-95, I-85, and logistics hubs at Richmond International Airport and the Port of Virginia, which is embarking on a project that will make it the deepest port on the East Coast in 2024. Another benefit of the East Coast location is that 55% of the U.S. population is within 750 miles. There is an established infrastructure for air, freight, and rail logistics.

Henrico County offers competitive tax rates of $0.30 per $100 on machinery and tools, one of the lowest rates in central Virginia, and $0.40 per $100 on data centers. There is also a deep, talented labor pool, including 90,000 yearly graduates from nearby universities. The college population is diverse, with two HBCUs nearby.

Semiconductor and other technology-focused industries need an advanced internet infrastructure that will give it the world’s fastest data transmission. White Oak Technology Park houses the Richmond Network Access Point (NAP) that is the heart of the QTS Data Center. The campus is also home to DE-CIX Richmond, offering unbeatable access to the subsea cables MAREA, BRUSA, SAEx1, and Dunant, and providing a gateway to the largest interconnection ecosystem in North America. This dynamic duo is the basis of a robust digital ecosystem, ensuring that data flows constantly and companies can easily reach business epicenters and emerging markets worldwide.

The area’s quality housing, schools, and amenities with a low cost of living allow for easy relocation. Henrico County is home to six Fortune 1000 headquarters and hundreds of manufacturing, service, and distribution operations.

Markham, Ontario: Current and Future Home Of Semiconductor Innovation

Located at the center of Canada’s second largest tech cluster, Markham, Ontario is home to global leaders in the semiconductor industry as well as emerging companies that are revolutionizing the space. Markham boasts the highest concentration of tech workers per capita in Canada, with over 1,500 technology companies employing more than 35,400 people. The city is also home to 650 corporate head offices.

A number of tech titans currently have operations in Markham, including AMD, Qualcomm, Creation Technologies, Vexos, ITL Circuits, SMTC, Invotek, The Six Semiconductor, and Microart. Markham is also nurturing exciting startups such as Astera Labs, which recently opened its Research and Design Centre there. Customers of the connectivity solutions company include AMD, Intel, Amazon, Samsung, and TSMC. Astera chip technology is used to help speed up cloud services and reduce processing bottlenecks. The company cited Markham and the broader region’s high density of world-class talent and cutting-edge research as their reason for investing locally.