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TMCNet:  New chip fab in mix? [Times Union, Albany, N.Y.]

[November 09, 2012]

New chip fab in mix? [Times Union, Albany, N.Y.]

(Times Union (Albany, NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 09--MALTA -- A major player in the semiconductor industry has been scouting land in the Capital Region where it can build a 3.2 million-square-foot computer chip factory.

Deloitte, the global consulting firm, has been hired by the semiconductor manufacturer to find a site.

Local economic development officials have been briefed on the project but have been sworn to secrecy because of the sensitivity of the deal, sources said.

Using the code words "Project Azalea," the Deloitte's selection team is considering two local sites, including Luther Forest Technology Campus in Saratoga County and Rensselaer Technology Park in North Greenbush.

The Marcy Nanocenter, in Oneida County outside Utica, has also been considered. Sites in other states that host the computer chip industry such as Texas and California are also possibilities.

When contacted for this story, local economic development officials wouldn't speak about the potential project because they had signed non-disclosure agreements.

In general terms, F. Michael Tucker, the CEO of the Center for Economic Growth, said that his organization is often contacted about potential projects and also receives referrals about projects from Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm.

"Those discussions are private and by their very nature require a level of confidentiality," Tucker said.

Michael Relyea, president of the organization that operates Luther Forest Technology Campus, also declined to comment, saying he was also bound by a confidentiality agreement.

The Capital Region and New York state shocked the world six years ago when Advanced Micro Devices chose Luther Forest for its next chip factory, or fab.

Although the $3.2 billion project eventually changed hands to AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, it has since grown in size and scope, with the total investment at Luther Forest expected to be near $7 billion and employment topping 2,000.

Combined with the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the GlobalFoundries factory -- known as Fab 8 -- has put the Capital Region on the map in terms of the highly-coveted semiconductor manufacturing sector.

However, to become a major high-tech center, on the scale of Austin, Tex., or Portland, Ore., industry analysts have said that the Capital Region would need multiple fabs. For instance, many areas of the United States have just one chip fab, such as Burlington, Vt., and East Fishkill in Dutchess County, both of which are home to IBM manufacturing facilities. But neither has the name recognition of Austin and others.

It is unclear who is behind the Deloitte site selection process, but few companies could be interested in building a factory of that size, including GlobalFoundries. Two summers ago, GlobalFoundries tested the waters with state officials to see if the state would approve another billion-dollar incentive package to build a second fab at Luther Forest. Confidential renderings of the building show that it would have been considerably larger than the current Fab 8 facility. And it would have been 450 millimeter compatible, meaning the factory would have been built large enough to accommodate the larger 18-inch silicon wafers expected to be used in the next generation of chip manufacturing.

Today, as at Fab 8, chips are made on 12-inch, or 300mm wafers.

The new Global 450 Consortium at the NanoCollege could also shed light on who might be behind the Deloitte search. The consortium, which includes GlobalFoundries and IBM, as well as Intel, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., is composed of the world's largest chip makers, who are working together to move the industry to 450mm production.

As part of a state-brokered deal to locate the group in Albany that included $500 million in state incentives, the participants vowed to try to locate a 450mm fab in upstate New York. The cost of such a large facility would likely top $10 billion.

Intel is a logical choice because it also made Albany its East Coast 450mm headquarters.

"We never comment on what we may or may not be looking at," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said Thursday. --518-454-5504 --@larryrulison ___ (c)2012 Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Visit Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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