Wednesday's announcement can't be good news for the Rio Rancho facility.
BY DENNIS DOMRZAKI
It looks like Intel’s Rio Rancho plant has missed out on another round of technology upgrades by the giant chip-making company. But its Chandler, Ariz., plant hasn’t.
Intel says it will invest $7 billion over the next three our four years in its uncompleted Fab 42 plant in Chandler, a move the company said will “create approximately 3,000 high-tech, high-wage jobs for process engineers, equipment technicians and facilities-support engineers.”
The Chandler plant will produce 7 nanometer miroprocessing chips that will “power data centers and hundreds of millions of smart phones and connected devices,” Intel said in a news release. The firm’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, made the announcement Wednesday morning during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.
Wednesday’s announcement can’t be good news for the Rio Rancho facility, which has been bypassed for several rounds of upgrades and investments. The facility produces 300 mm chips, which are no longer considered cutting-edge. And Intel’s release made it clear that the Chandler facility is getting that cutting-edge technology.
“The 7 mm semiconductor manufacturing process targeted for Fab 42 will be the most advanced semiconductor process technology used in the world,” Intel’s news release said. “The chips made on the 7mm process will power the most sophisticated computers, data centers, sensors and other high-tech devices, and enable things like artificial intelligence, more advanced cars and transportation service, breakthroughs in medical research and treatment and more.”
The Rio Rancho plant has been in decline since the mid-2000s when it employed at around 5,500 people. At the beginning of 2016, that number had dropped to 1,900. During the year, Intel announced 12,000 worldwide layoffs, or 11 percent of its workforce. It’s not known how many people still work at the Rio Rancho factory. A local Intel spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Intel hasn’t made a major investment in the Rio Rancho plant since 2009 when Sandoval County approved a $16 billion industrial revenue bond deal for the facility. As of 2016, the company had used about $6 billion of that bonding capacity; it has until Oct. 25, 2019, to access what remains of the IRB, said a spokesman for Sandoval County.