Breaking News
More () »

Straight Talk: Oregon leaders call Intel's $20 billion expansion in Ohio a 'wake-up call' for Oregon

The CEO of Greater Portland Inc. called on voters to evaluate governor candidates on their willingness to work to attract new semiconductor investment in Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Intel is Oregon's largest corporate employer with 22,000 employees. It's at the heart of Oregon's "Silicon Forest" in Washington County, but when Intel announced it was making a $20 billion investment in a massive chip manufacturing facility, that investment went to Ohio, not Oregon. 

How did Oregon miss out?

Wake-up call

Monique Claiborne, CEO of Greater Portland Inc., said Oregon is the heart of research and development for Intel, but that the state doesn't do a high volume of chip production.

"While it wasn't a huge disappointment, it was, however, a wake-up call that we do need to mobilize resources, people and ideas, and really continue to spur innovation in the region," Claiborne said.

Claiborne was a guest on this week's episode of "Straight Talk," along with Oregon state Representative Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley) and Jennifer Baker, President of the Columbia River Economic Development Council in Clark County.

'It’s about being intentional'

Rep. Bynum said she believes Oregon could have done more to land Intel's multi-billion dollar expansion. 

She called on business and elected leaders to look forward toward opportunities to build an economy that works for all Oregonians and creates family wage jobs.

"I think it's about being intentional about businesses we want to attract to Oregon. It's been very clear to me in my time in the legislature that we want businesses that provide people with a steady, steady income that provides benefits and contributes positively to our environment," she said.

A call for a regional approach

Baker said the region has the chance to work together to bring some of the federal dollars from the “CHIPS for America Act” to Oregon and Southwest Washington. That legislation would authorize a series of programs to promote the research, development and fabrication of semiconductors within the United States. The Senate passed the bill in 2021 and the House passed its own bill in February, but the differences in the bills haven't been ironed out yet. Baker said the region needs to be ready.

"We have the opportunity as a region to mobilize...to work with companies and try to bring a piece of that CHIPS Act money here to the region to update manufacturing facilities, update the power grid. I think unless we have a very coordinated effort, there will be states who coordinate around us," Baker said.

RELATED: Straight Talk: Speaker Dan Rayfield reflects on first session leading Oregon House

'Growing future engineers'

Rep. Bynum, who is an engineer as well as a businesswoman, said investment in STEM education is also key. She's also excited about the career opportunities new high-tech companies would bring to the state.

"As a young kid growing up wanting to be an engineer, I thought I would do it starting at age 11. So the excitement that kids can look forward to a strong, stable career and they can live in Oregon and raise their families here, that is exciting to me," she said. "And I am ready to roll up my sleeves and grow future engineers here in Oregon."

RELATED: Straight Talk: Race for Portland auditor is contested for the first time in 36 years

Pivotal election year

Claiborne also sees this election year in Oregon as an opportunity to choose leaders who will make recruiting semiconductor manufacturing companies a priority.

"It's a big election year for the state of Oregon and this decision starts at the top. I would consider the slate of candidates currently running for gubernatorial office now and decide how it impacts semiconductor companies. Who is willing to come out and recruit, know their drink orders of these companies looking to expand their footprint," she said.

The panel also discussed the need to locate serviceable large parcels of land to help attract semiconductor manufacturers and the formation of the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Taskforce.

Watch previous episodes of Straight Talk:

Straight Talk airs Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. 

Straight Talk is also available as a podcast.

Before You Leave, Check This Out