Wolfspeed announces $5 billion investment in Chatham County, largest in NC history

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Wolfspeed will build a new semiconductor plant at a 400-acre site in Chatham County with an estimated investment of $5 billion and a commitment to create more than 1,800 jobs paying $77,000 a year on average. But it’s going to cost North Carolina tax payers some $1 billion in a variety of tax incentives.

Semiconductor chips are a key part of most electrotonic devices used today.

The investment over time stands to be the largest in North Carolina history, exceeding the $4.5 billion commitment by automaker VinFast to build a plant. That investment is also going to Chatham County.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am right now. My stomach is fluttering,” said Rep. Robert Reives, a Democrat representing Chatham County.

Leaders called this deal game changing and were especially excited about Wolfspeed’s ability to produce electronic parts used in electric cars.

“Of all the places that Wolfspeed could go, it has picked North Carolina,” said Gov. Roy Cooper during a press conference announcing the news. “When you think about having a talented, educated, diverse workforce, that is what these companies of the future want. And North Carolina can provide it.”

Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe and Cooper formally announced the plant about an hour after the North Carolina Commerce Department’s Economic Development Investment Committee formally agreed to a contract with Wolfspeed.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Commerce, said the new plant will be on a plot of land between Zion Church Road and Old U.S. Highway 421.

“When job creators make these investments in North Carolina, it’s not just the number of jobs, it’s what it means for families,” said Aaron Chatterji, chief economist with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Chatterji emphasized that Wolfspeed’s presence in the state will likely attract other companies and lead to great economic prosperity for the entire state.

“I am thinking about the little bit of stress that will be off these parents when they have the career and a job at a place like Wolfspeed,” he said.

During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, computer chips were in short supply creating issues across the economy. Industry experts forecast that supply chain issues caused by chip shortages could likely persist until 2024. Wolfspeed’s development is helping ease that pain, Chatterji said.

“If all the chips are made in one part of the world, we’re going to have supply chain disruptions like we did during the pandemic,” Chatterji said, hinting at Asia.

Wolfspeed also said it hopes to “obtain federal funding from the CHIPS and Science Act to accelerate the construction and build-out of the facility.” That act was recently passed by Congress to strengthen semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

The company is based in Durham and recently opened another semiconductor-related plant in the state of New York. It also is expanding operations in Durham.

Lowe said Chatham County’s plant will be 10 times larger than the largest silicon carbide semiconductor plant in the world.

The EIC agreement also requires Wolfspeed to retain all its employees already located in North Carolina.

Wolfspeed will receive a big package of state and local tax incentives for the new plant adding up to some $1 billion, according to the company.

Those include state funding of more than $159 million, local incentives from Chatham County of some $615 million, a variety of infrastructure grants (including one from the Golden LEAF Foundation), community college training for employees and a rebate on state income tax withholdings for new employees worth some $76 million.

“Using silicon carbide, electric cars will have a longer range. And they’ll be able to re-charge at a much faster rate,” Lowe said.

Wolfspeed anticipates initial construction of the Chatham complex to be completed by 2024 with an initial investment of $1.3 billion.

Between 2024 and the end of the decade, the company will add additional capacity as needed, eventually occupying more than one million square feet on the 445-acre site.

“This $5 billion investment will create thousands of good-paying jobs, while rebuilding America’s supply chains here at home and ultimately helping to lower prices for the American people,” said Brian Deese, White House director of the National Economic Council. “We applaud Wolfspeed and congratulate both Governor Cooper and all North Carolinians.”

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire