President Joe Biden’s visit Tuesday to a massive construction project in north Phoenix highlighted Arizona’s role in a major U.S. policy shift on semiconductor manufacturing.
The Biden administration is pushing to boost domestic chips manufacturing with more than $50 billion in subsidies in the new CHIPs and Science Act.
The president’s visit to the new fabrication facility being built by Taiwanese chips giant TSMC came as the firm announced it would build a second fabrication facility and triple its investment in Phoenix to $40 billion.
Biden says it is good news for TSMC’s biggest customer, Apple.
“These are the most advanced semiconductor chips on the planet. Chips will power iPhones and MacBooks,” Biden said. “Apple had to buy all the advanced chips from overseas. Now, they are going to bring more of their supply chain here at home. It can be a game changer.”
U.S. technology firms have long outsourced semiconductor manufacturing overseas, particularly with TSMC, the world’s largest foundry.
Calls to change that increased when the U.S. found itself scrambling for chips in the supply chain breakdowns prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent tensions with China added to the sense of urgency. China sees Taiwan as a part of its territory, and U.S. policymakers were worried about the long-term ability to source high-end chips, essential for computers, smartphones, cars, fighter planes and data centers.
The Biden administration has been pushing to make the most cutting-edge chips in the U.S.
Ahead of Biden’s visit Tuesday, TSMC announced it would ratchet up the kind of technology it makes in Arizona beyond the 4-nanometer technology slated to begin production in 2024. In addition, TSMC said it would begin producing 3-nanometer technology in its second fabrication facility by 2026. Those advanced chips deliver faster processing and use less power.
“This state-of-the-art manufacturing facility behind us is a testimony that TSMC is also taking a giant step forward to help build a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem in the United States,” said Mark Liu, TSMC’s chairman.
The president toured the construction site and was part of the TSMC plant’s “first tool-in” ceremony, the moment when a building is ready for manufacturing equipment to move in.
The company, which had said it would hire 2,000 workers, now says it will employ 4,500.
Arizona is among the states trying to attract federal funding.
A 3,700-square-meter cleanroom at nearby Arizona State University in Tempe is helping to meet the workforce demands of Arizona’s burgeoning semiconductor sector. There, students, companies and startups work on hardware innovations.
With 30,000 engineering students, Arizona State is home to the country’s largest college of engineering and is a driver in meeting the next-generation demand.
“Chips and Science Act is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the moment. This is the moment to build out capabilities, infrastructure, expertise,” Kyle Squires, dean of the schools of engineering at Arizona State University, told VOA recently. “We’re bringing this capability back into the U.S. You’ve got to have a workforce ready to engage it.”