Back to work: Intel to spend nearly $4 billion to build Hillsboro fab


Microchip giant Intel’s announcement Oct. 19 that it will build a brand new development fabrication (fab) plant at its Ronler Acres Campus in Hillsboro was music to the ears of construction union officials.

Intel, headquartered in Santa Clara, California, will spend nearly $4 billion building D1X — a 1.8 million-square-foot facility that will develop its next-generation 22-nanometer microprocessors. It also will upgrade its two existing fabs, D1C and D1D.

Intel officials said upwards of 6,000 construction jobs will be created by the projects.

Hoffman Construction will be the general contractor.

“This couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Thank you Intel,” said John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council (OSBCTC). Mohlis and numerous other union officials attended the press conference, along with Gov. Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Congressman David Wu.

With unemployment in the trades exceeding 20 percent, union officials said they have the manpower willing, ready, and able to go to work. And though there is no guarantee that the work will be union, signatory contractors, for the most part, have built Ronler Acres Campus from the ground up starting in 1994.

Paul Riggs, executive secretary of the Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council, worked at Intel for many years starting in the mid-1990s as a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48.

“They told us then that they were making a long-term investment here,” he said. “They’re making good on their word.”

At the Oct. 19 press conference, Jill Eiland, Oregon public affairs manager at Intel, pointed to Mohlis and the other union officials as she praised the union crafts for their past work, and said Intel was glad to be able to put some of its friends in the building trades back to work.

All crafts will see jobs from the projects, though fitters and electricians will benefit the most.

“We certainly appreciate Intel’s investment in Oregon,” Mohlis said. “There’s a reason Intel chose to put a big new fab in Oregon. We’ve consistently shown that we have the construction workforce to deliver a project on time, on budget and in a safe manner.”

Intel began construction of Ronler Acres 1 in December 1994. RA1 is a three-story 300,000-square-foot office building and a 600,000-square-foot fab (D1B) featuring a 35,000-square-foot clean room that grew to 77,000 square feet when it was converted into production in 1998. D1B was the original name of what later became Fab 20, which ceased production in June 2010.

Ground was broken on the D1C development fab in 1998. The 282,631-square-foot plant went online in 2001. The facility featured 100,000 square feet of clean room, which at the time was larger than most production factories in the industry.

Then came D1D, a $2 billion, 797,353-square-foot development fab with 190,000 square feet of clean room. At its peak, D1D employed 4,000 construction workers. It opened in 2003.

“At one point during D1D construction I remember seeing 14 cranes set up. That’s an amazing site to behold,” Mohlis said.

Phase 1 of D1X is the size of the D1D, noted John Endicott, business manager of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 and president of the OSBCTC.

The D1X clean room alone measures in at 200,000 square feet. Another 330,000 square feet of support buildings will be built as well.

“With these projects (D1X and D1C and D1D expansion) I would guess we will dispatch well over 1,000 workers at its peak,” Endicott said. “We’ll empty our bench for fitters.”

Nelda Wilson, assistant to the business manager of Operating Engineers Local 701, said that with other projects such as Portland’s Big Pipe starting to wind down, her members are looking forward to the work.

“The Intel project will be a big help,” she said.

Local 701’s peak work is underground utilities and foundation. Some level of groundbreaking is expected by year’s end, so peak likely will come in early 2011.

D1X is projected to open in 2013.

All told, Intel has more than 1.4 million square feet of office and manufacturing space in a half-dozen buildings at Ronler Acres. Some 300 to 350 union fitters and plumbers work there every day performing maintenance, change-overs, and toolovers. Another 100-plus electricians are also on site daily.

In addition to the construction jobs, D1X will add as many as 1,000 skilled manufacturing and research employees (nonunion) to Intel’s Hillsboro workforce. Intel has facilities in nine other states and nine foreign countries, but its largest base of operations is in Oregon, with about 15,500 employees.


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