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Rep. Tonko hosts roundtable discussion on the future of New York’s semiconductor industry

Rep. Paul Tonko at center stage during roundtable discussion at Albany NanoTech Complex, June 17, 2022.
Rep. Paul Tonko at center stage during roundtable discussion at Albany NanoTech Complex, June 17, 2022.

A roundtable discussion about the future of the semiconductor industry in New York brought together business and lawmakers Friday.

The potential of establishing an even-stronger foothold in the billion dollar semiconductor industry was the focus at the Albany NanoTech Complex. Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat, is a Conference Committee Member for the Bipartisan Innovation Act and has been helping lead negotiations regarding continued funding of semiconductor manufacturing.

Tonko has been calling for the National Semiconductor Technology Center and National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program to be located in New York.

TONKO 2 "I think it's important for us to invest through the Department of Energy and the next generations of chips so that we not only invest in the current state of affairs for the industry in America, but to go further and develop the product line with research that will develop the components to get us there and develop the prototypes."

David Anderson, President of R&D hub NY CREATES, says industry partners including GlobalFoundries and IBM have helped position New York to support whatever federal initiatives come its way.

"I think at the same time, we recognize that the vision for the future is not a single state or a single organization," SAID aNDERSON. "It's a national effort, and it requires a nationwide response. And so because of that, you know, NY CREATES is really excited to be part of the American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition, ASIC, which is a coalition of partners across industry, university, government, and labs to bring that vision of a National Semiconductor Technology Center to bear and we want to headquartered here in New York."

Business Council of New York State President Heather Briccetti says the growing semiconductor industry is a proven job growth stimulator.

"If you look at Saratoga County, 25% growth in southern part [of] Saratoga County since 2000, largely due to GlobalFoundries," Briccetti said. "And success begets success, the more critical mass there is in this sector, the more companies will start and grow around it. And we've seen that in New York to some degree, but we need more and we need to do it faster."

GlobalFoundries says it has invested more than $15 billion at its Fab 8 site in Malta, now the company’s headquarters. The firm’s John Pellerin says demand for product has been high, noting the pandemic contributed to supply-chain issues that intensified the worldwide chip shortage.

"We were already on a steep increase in semiconductor demand before, before COVID," Pellerin said. "Just look at the semiconductor content in automobiles going from a few $100 to several $1000s of dollars. You know, the advent of 'Internet of Things' devices, you know, you know, all the devices you have in your homes that's just exploding. So we were already on an upward trajectory. COVID threw a wrench into that. People cut their orders back slashed inventories, because they weren't moving their own product. And that just caused a huge whipsaw effect across the whole economy and certainly within our industry, so it has affected us in terms of our ability to bring more capacity online. We are doing everything we can to expand within the footprints we have, we are eagerly awaiting that final signature to allow us to expand even more and to be able to bring more capacity online."

Tonko says the House’s America COMPETES Act of 2022 will alleviate the shortage.

"And I just think with more public awareness and more public push, we can get that done," said Tonko. "And hopefully, seal the deal because the 'chips basics' are pretty much in agreement. But we need to come to terms on some of the surrounding issues that still are being considered out there. And at initial blush being refused just because of its investment. I can tell you, in general, there are some that are opposing the bill before it's even finalized, because it's more spending, I call this investment. And sometimes the cost of not investing is greater than that cost of investing. And, you know, it's all about putting the legislation together in a way that's most meaningful."

The Senate and House are reconciling a final CHIPS for America Act.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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