This is not a blog...or is it?
As I mentioned last issue, we’ve started a blog called Chip Shots at www.micromagazine.com/blog. One of the things I’ve discovered about blogging is that it has had an unforeseen effect on my editor’s page. Many of the good ideas or interesting topics that I might have discussed on this page have already been blogged (blogged on?) over the course of the past couple of months.
But then I realized that the blog could be a source of editor’s page fodder. There are no rules, written or otherwise, that state that one cannot move from the digital domain back into print, instead of the typical print-to-digital copy flow. In fact, if you look at this issue, you will find a few bits and pieces that first appeared in Chip Shots now lurking in our Industry News section. But this issue’s column will try to stem the tide and focus on some items that I might have blogged but will include here instead. You could even call it a blog in print.
Two recent site-selection announcements brought up some interesting points to ponder. AMD has decided to locate a new 300-mm fab north of Albany, NY, ending months of speculation about where the chipmaker would build its next facility after its Dresden campus expansions. Meanwhile, on the Left Coast, alternative-energy start-up Nanosolar will build what it calls the world’s largest solar-cell manufacturing facility somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The two projects represent something unusual in U.S.-based microelectronics manufacturing: namely, AMD’s upstate–New York site will be the first domestic 100% greenfield fab project in a long time. Nanosolar’s sites may also be greenfield, although given the number of vacant or underused facilities in Northern California, a retrofit approach could also be chosen. Do the decisions to build major plants in the United States bode well for further domestic investments of this sort, or are they anomalies in the outsourcing approach that many companies have taken? In the fab world, it’s not that much of an anomaly, since Intel, IBM, Micron, Texas Instruments, and Samsung have all opted to build new facilities or expand existing ones in the United States.
What is clear is that any such decision depends heavily on garnering either very generous government incentives (AMD) or a combination of private funding and government contracts (Nanosolar). Certainly, AMD has benefited greatly from the contributions of various local, state, and federal German entities in building up its fabs in Dresden, a lesson that had not been lost on the local and state authorities in New York. Nanosolar, which was originally funded by members of the Google gang, has wrapped up a $100 million financing package from old and new investors and partners.
One other thing about the AMD deal caught my fancy in a free-associational, numerological kind of way. According to published reports, the combined government incentives offered to the chipmaker is $1.2 billion. The factory itself will occupy 1.2 million sq ft, will directly employ 1200 people, and will likely be operational by December 2012 at the earliest. Other than calculating that the state’s package amounts to about $1 million per new employee and about $1000 per square foot of factory floor space, I’m not sure what all those “1-2” combinations mean.
For those less scientific and more prone to belief in ancient prophecies, the end of the Mayan calendar falls on the winter solstice of 2012, or 12/21/12. I wonder if AMD has structured the deal so that everything is paid for before life on Earth as we know it evolves into something else. As for MICRO, I’m pretty sure that the magazine will have evolved well before that date.
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© 2007 Tom Cheyney
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