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Why did Intel pick Ohio instead of Oregon for $20 billion expansion?

Intel is investing big money into a chip manufacturing facility in the Midwest. This has some people wondering, why not Oregon?

PORTLAND, Ore. — Intel is investing $20 billion on a massive chip manufacturing facility in the Midwest. This has some people wondering, why not Oregon?

The new 1,000-acre campus, located near Columbus, Ohio, will feature two chip making plants. It will create about 7,000 construction jobs and once the plants are built, they will have about 3,000 full-time employees.

President Joe Biden called it "one of the largest investments in semiconductor manufacturing in American history." 

Over time, the location could grow to eight plants with a total investment of $100 billion, said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. 

"This impact of a mega site is profound. The semiconductor factory is not like other factories; it’s more like a small city supporting a vibrant community of services, suppliers and ancillary businesses," Gelsinger said at a White House news conference. "You can think about this as a magnet for the entire tech industry."

In September 2021, Intel announced a $20 billion investment to add two chip factories in Arizona as well. 

Meanwhile, Intel is Oregon's largest private employer, with 22,000 workers in Washington County alone. With that, KGW wanted to find out why Oregon was not chosen for one of those big expansions. 

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An article in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper profiled the process it took to land the Intel deal in Ohio. One statement stood out: a quote from Intel CEO Gelsinger about how hard state leadership worked to win the plants and the jobs that come with it.

"I want to give a lot of credit to the governor and lieutenant governor. They pursued us very aggressively," he said.

Gov. Kate Brown was asked Tuesday what she or the legislature could have done to keep Intel's expansion in Oregon — or what they should do in the future to get the next expansion of a manufacturing company.

Gov. Brown did not answer either question directly.

“In my conversations with the CEO, Pat Gelsinger, he continues to highlight that Oregon is truly the crown jewel particularly of their research and development and that Intel technology begins in Oregon," Gov. Brown said.

The governor said she will continue to work with Intel but punted the rest of the question.

Charles Boyle, spokesman for Gov. Brown's office, later issued a statement regarding manufacturing in the state. 

“Governor Brown is committed to expanding manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturing in Oregon," he wrote. "Our office will be coordinating our efforts with the semiconductor task force announced at the OBP leadership summit last month."

OBP, or Oregon Business Plan, is the state’s economic development forum.

Intel issued a statement that Oregon is "Intel's heart of R&D and will remain critical to Intel's factory work." A spokeswoman added that the company regularly explores expansion opportunities including in Oregon.

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John Tapogna, a policy advisor for ECONorthwest and someone who studies such issues, said Ohio was ready and Oregon is not.

“Ohio knew that they wanted to be ready for whoever might show up. So they've had an aligned vision on trying to create an environment that would be attractive to a manufacturer like Intel,” he said.

Tapogna said Oregon needs to decide whether it wants to attract manufacturing plants in the future and if so begin work now to make it easy for a company to get large chunks of land that would work for both them and the state.

Have a comment or story idea for Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com

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