Don’t forget Micron

$3 billion expansion is expected to create 1,100 jobs

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Micron Technology has operated a plant in Manassas since 2002.
Photo courtesy Micron Technology Inc.

While all eyes were on Amazon’s HQ2 project, Virginia landed another deal — one that will result in $3 billion in investment and the creation of 1,100 jobs.

The plan to expand Micron Technology Inc.’s semiconductor plant represents “the largest deal in commonwealth history. It’s really doubling down on manufacturing in Manassas,” says Julie Coons, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

One of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, Micron will make its $3 billion investment over the next dozen years, creating 1,100 additional jobs by 2030. Before the expansion, the plant employed about 1,500 people. The Boise, Idaho-based company has more than 34,000 employees in 17 countries.

As part of the expansion, Micron plans to establish a global research and development center for memory and storage solutions, primarily in the automotive, industrial and networking markets.

The R&D center will include laboratories, test equipment and about 100 product engineers focused on fields such as unmanned and autonomous automotive systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other industrial and networking applications. The initial clean-room expansion is expected to be completed in the fall with production ramp up in the first half of 2020.

“Micron’s expansion in the city of Manassas … will position the commonwealth as a leader in unmanned systems and Internet of Things,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. The investment also “solidifies Micron” as one of the commonwealth’s largest exporters, he said.

The Micron deal was a major factor in Business Facilities magazine’s decision to name Virginia its “2018 State of the Year.” Virginia’s Amazon HQ2 victory “was the second volley in an impressive one-two punch that also saw Micron announce in August a $3 billion expansion of its semiconductor complex in Manassas,” according to the magazine.

“Virginia snared more than $5.5 billion in capital investment for its top two projects, and its top five job-creation efforts netted nearly 28,000 new jobs in a diverse and well-executed growth strategy that has made Virginia a high-tech force to be reckoned with,” according to Editor-in-Chief Jack Rogers.

To seal the Micron deal, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) developed an incentive package with Manassas and the General Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission. The centerpiece of the package is a $70 million performance grant to Micron for site preparation and other facility costs.

Micron’s Manassas site “manufactures our long-lifecycle products that are built using our mature process technologies,” Micron President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said in a statement.

Mehrotra told the Reuters news agency that the expansion aims to meet increasing demand for more powerful computer chips that run collision-avoidance systems and other semi-autonomous automotive systems. He said the company expects that market to double to $6 billion by 2021. “Think of the automobiles of the future as data centers on wheels.”

Virginia was chosen for expansion because the Manassas plant has been making chips for 15 years for carmakers that demand high levels of durability and reliability, Mehrotra said. “We have a deep culture in the Manassas facility of supporting the demanding requirement of these customers.”

Founded in 1978, Micron became one of the world’s largest memory-chip producers with the 1998 purchase of Texas Instruments’ memory operations. The company’s roots in Virginia go back to 2002 when it acquired Toshiba’s commodity DRAM operations at Dominion Semiconductor LLC in Manassas.

When the expansion was announced, Micron also pledged to help educate the next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians at Virginia universities and community colleges. The Micron Foundation, the company’s philanthropic organization, will commit $1 million to that effort.

Faculty members, program directors and student groups from universities and community colleges in the commonwealth will be eligible. With a focus on women and underrepresented minorities, programs that support low-income and first-time college students also will receive special consideration.

“Micron’s outreach in our schools, through robotic programs, internships and STEM education, is helping to prepare our kids for the jobs of the future. The city of Manassas plans to work closely with major education institutions, including Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University, to ensure Micron has a continuous pipeline of qualified, technically skilled labor,” state Sen. Jeremy McPike said in a statement.

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