Another Semiconductor Giant Scouts Austin for Future Expansion

((Article is from Austin Business Journal, copyright belongs to owner) One of the world’s largest semiconductor companies is considering an investment in Central Texas as it moves forward with a $150 billion plan to expand its chipmaking capabilities, according to multiple sources.

Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc., a maker of memory chips and computer data storage with facilities around the world, has been scouting the region for several months and is considering Caldwell and Williamson counties for its next fabrication plant, sources said. No decision has been made, and the status of these major economic development projects can change at any time.

Micron officials did not immediately return requests for comment.

Another media in North Carolina reported Jan. 4 that Micron is also eyeing Chatham County, which is west of Raleigh. Multiple sources told TBJ that the factory, if it comes to fruition, could represent a capital investment of $40 billion or more with 5,000 to 10,000 jobs at full buildout. The publication also reported Micron is considering sites in Texas, California and Arizona.

Micron announced in October plans to invest more than $150 billion over the coming decade to help address the global chip shortage and boost domestic semiconductor production, according to the Wall Street Journal. Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra told WSJ the company will expand existing chipmaking facilities and possibly construct new plants with that funding.

If such a a project were to land in Central Texas, it would add another crown jewel to the region’s semiconductor industry, which experts have said is already ascending after Samsung Electronic Co. Ltd. in November picked Taylor for a $17 billion chipmaking plant. It would also jolt the local economy with thousands of direct and indirect jobs and millions of dollars of spending for years to come, based on the estimated price tag.

A Micron spokesperson told TBJ the company is vetting opportunities around the world and weighing factors, such as “access to a strong talent pool, reliable and cost-competitive utility services, alignment with our corporate sustainability objectives, and a favorable regulatory environment.”

“In the U.S., we’re engaging in discussions with multiple states and will provide updates as the process continues and at the appropriate time,” the spokesperson told TBJ. “There are multiple factors that inform our decision to invest billions of dollars to construct and operate a fab. We will share specific locations as we close on unique investment targets.”

Multiple sources told Austin Business Journal that Micron is strongly considering the city of Lockhart, nearly 40 minutes south of downtown Austin. A spokesperson at the city of Lockhart said they were unaware of the project and could not comment.

Last month, the Lockhart Independent School District board considered a potential Chapter 313 incentives agreement for an undisclosed project in closed session. No action was taken at the Dec. 13 meeting, though Chapter 313 agreements are used to attract capital-intensive manufacturing and renewable energy projects. If the project isn’t tied to Micron, then it appears Lockhart officials are courting another major project.

Representatives from both Caldwell County and Lockhart ISD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Micron has also considered Williamson County for its plant, sources said. Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, who has a lead role in courting economic development projects in the county, has said that many technology companies are looking at the area, especially on the heels of the Samsung decision. Gravell declined to comment on Micron’s interest in the county.

As Micron weighs its options, the globe is dealing with a major chip shortage. A significant concern in the U.S. is supply chain issues created by the country’s reliance on semiconductor manufacturing abroad — about 90% of the world’s computer chips are made outside the United States.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, have led the charge to incentivize domestic semiconductor production through the CHIPS for America Act. The act became law last year, but federal legislators still need to secure funding for the initiative.

McCaul spoke with KVUE last month about Samsung’s decision to invest in Austin and the CHIPS for America Act. He noted that companies such as Intel and Micron are looking at making big investments in the U.S.

“Many of them are all looking at the Austin area as a place to do business,” McCaul told KVUE. McCaul could not be immediately reached for comment.

Micron’s share price closed Jan. 5 at $94.40, up about 16% over the past six months, giving it a market capitalization of nearly $106 billion. In 2021, the Idaho-based company had roughly 43,000 employees worldwide, according to a September report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The semiconductor company already has an office in Austin off I-35 and State Highway 45, according to its website. It’s not clear exactly what operations are based in the Austin office, though a Google search found multiple job postings for engineer positions.