CLAY — Micron Technology has unveiled plans to build a massive semiconductor chip plant at White Pine Commerce Park in the town of Clay. State and local officials joined Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra in a press conference Oct. 4 at Syracuse University to make the announcement.
“We chose this location for many reasons, but most importantly — Central New York offers a rich pool of diverse talent, including communities that traditionally have been underrepresented in technology jobs. This historic leading-edge memory megafab will deliver benefits beyond the semiconductor industry by strengthening U.S. technology leadership, as well as economic and national security, driving American innovation and competitiveness for decades to come,” Mehrotra said.
“This is our Erie Canal moment. Just as the original Erie Canal did centuries ago, this 21st century Erie Canal will flow through the heart of Central New York and redefine Upstate New York’s place in the global economy for generations to come,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
Micron will invest as much as $100 billion over the course of two decades to build the “megafab.” The campus will feature the nation’s largest clean room, a 2.4 million-square-foot space specially designed to eliminate contaminated air or particles. The clean room will be about the size of 40 football fields.
“It’ll make the Carrier Dome look kind of small,” Schumer said in a nod to SU athletics’ home turf of the JMA Wireless Dome.
The first phase of construction, an investment of $20 billion, is expected to last through the end of the decade. The project will create 9,000 direct jobs for Micron and over 40,000 jobs in related industries in the community — “enough to fill every seat in the JMA Dome,” Schumer said.
“Micron will become one of the largest employers in the region, paying nearly double the average wage of Central New York,” read a press release from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. According to Micron, the average salary at the plant would be $100,000.
Many of those jobs will be opportunities for disadvantaged populations such as women, veterans and people of color. Micron has pledged 30% of its construction budget toward providing jobs for socially and economically disadvantaged employees, state-certified minority and women business enterprises, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon credited Schumer’s CHIPS and Science Act for bringing the long-awaited chip fab proposal to fruition. The CHIPS and Science Act provides $52.7 billion for semiconductor research, workforce development and incentives for manufacturers. President Joe Biden signed it into law in August.
“That first chip manufactured here needs to go directly into a smartphone for Sen. Chuck Schumer to retire his famous flip phone,” McMahon joked.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said this unprecedented public-private partnership would “usher the state into another Industrial Revolution” and revitalize New York into “the place businesses want to be.”
Hochul also waxed poetic on the significance of the plant’s location in Clay, as humans have long molded buildings, tools and art from clay.
“Today out of Clay … we’ll build the foundation to the future,” she said.
State, county offer incentives
New York State and Onondaga County attracted Micron with a slew of tax credits, grants and other incentives.
Empire State Development, New York’s economic development engine, has offered Micron $5.5 billion in Green CHIPS Excelsior tax credits. In exchange, Micron must commit to job creation, investment and 100% renewable energy.
In addition to state tax breaks, Micron and the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) have brokered a “49-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement and abatement of state and local sales tax on construction expenses,” according to the governor’s office.
Onondaga County also will provide the following grants:
- Façade grant: $5 million
- Research and development: $10 million to establish a semiconductor research and development at the Syracuse Center of Excellence in partnership with Syracuse University
- Jobs: $5 million workforce attraction grant to help with initial hiring; $5 million workforce sustainability grant to develop job skills in conjunction with Onondaga Community College and other institutions
“The Onondaga County Department of Water and Environment Protection and the Onondaga County Water Authority will make necessary water and wastewater infrastructure improvements over the project life cycle to support the project and surrounding community,” read a release from the governor’s office.
New York State also has pledged $200 million for road and other infrastructure improvements near the site and $100 million toward the Green CHIPS Community Fund, a $500 million community investment initiative.
What’s next for Burnet Road?
While local leaders celebrated Micron’s announcement, residents of Burnet Road in Clay are digesting the news.
Paul Richer and his wife, Robin, live in the home his father built in 1954. The Richers are part of a coalition of Burnet Road residents who oppose OCIDA’s quest to expand the White Pine site.
“We have a lot to think about,” Paul Richer said. “We have to meet with our lawyers and figure out what we’re going to do next.”
Richer said the fight is not yet over. The Institute for Justice, which describes itself as a “national public-interest civil liberties law firm dedicated to stopping the abuse of eminent domain,” continues to back the Save Burnet Road Coalition. IJ released a statement after the Micron announcement.
“Taking homes from families and giving them over to a billion-dollar corporation isn’t just un-American, it’s unconstitutional,” said IJ Attorney Bob Belden. “Other states throughout the country have made this abusive practice illegal, but New York State still allows it to run rampant.”
IJ’s press release included a statement from Britta Serog, another Burnet Road resident.
“The county has basically put ‘for sale’ signs in front of our homes, even though we don’t want to sell them,” Serog said. “This road was a community with rural charm, and the loss of farmland would be tragic. The county cannot just take our land because they want something else here.”