Cantwell, Murray Visit SW WA Semiconductor Manufacturer As CHIPS & Science Act Spurs Industry Growth

Cantwell: “Camas and Clark County are leading the way.”

CAMAS, WA – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) toured semiconductor manufacturer nLight to tout the major opportunities coming to Southwest Washington in the recently-passed $250 billion CHIPS & Science Act. The competitive grant funding, loans, and loan guarantees as well as the investment tax credit in the bill will potentially support major investments in Clark County’s cluster of semiconductor and electronics manufacturing companies. The Greater Portland Region supports over 30,000 jobs in computers and electronics, with over 2,800 jobs in semiconductor and related device manufacturing in Clark County alone.

"We want to be the leaders in the production of semiconductors and we want to be the leaders in advanced chip manufacturing,” said Sen. Cantwell. “We want to be the leaders in the design of the future applications for this great technology. And Camas and Clark County are leading the way."

“Since the beginning of last week, Micron Technology, GlobalFoundries, Qualcomm, and SEH have all announced plans for over $40 billion to build new semiconductor fabs – and increase production right here in the United States,” Sen. Cantwell continued.

“Right here in Clark County, nLight and companies like them make up a hub of semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Sen. Murray. “This bill is a game changer. It’s going to bring down costs on everything from appliances to cars to medical equipment—everything that requires chips, it will create good-paying jobs here in Clark County and across our state, and it’s going to protect us against the price spikes we saw as a result of the pandemic, by strengthening a really critical supply chain. We are building an economy that not only leads the world in innovation, but leads to good-paying jobs right here at home and lower costs on our store shelves.”

Sen. Cantwell and other speakers emphasized the opportunities to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the region, including $200 million for the National Science Foundation to grow the semiconductor workforce.

Said Scott Keeney, CEO, nLight: "As the world changes, there's been more pressure. And I think this CHIPS Act comes at a critical time, not only to enhance what we're doing in industry, but also to go deeper into science and technology, and to go into workforce development, and to go into education."

Said Jennifer Baker, President of the Columbia River Economic Development Council: “We must optimize our efforts on the national stage to anchor in the benefits right here … We can support every young person in our community to explore career pathways in STEM, feeding their curiosity, not just with technology, but also challenging them to ask how it works… To colleagues in the room, I say let's get after it.”

During the tour, the senators and media saw the chip manufacturing process in action, from automated wafer construction to semiconductor laser cutting.

The recently passed CHIPS & Science Act will enable the Department of Commerce to provide $39 billion in incentives via loans, loan guarantees and grants to chip manufacturers, as well as to companies that do not make chips (e.g., chip equipment and materials suppliers). The Act also provides a 25 percent investment tax credit for semiconductor manufacturing equipment and the construction of semiconductor manufacturing facilities. Additional funds can support local workforce development efforts. These activities may be beneficial to a range of local companies, like Analog Devices, nLight, WaferTech, and SEH America.

The CHIPS & Science Act also reauthorizes National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program and doubles the budget for ATE from the current level of $75 million per year to $150 million per year. This program helps community colleges like Clark College improve and expand educational programs for technicians to work in high-tech STEM fields that drive the U.S. economy and secure good paying jobs in Clark County.

Additionally, the CHIPS & Science Act provides support for expanding internship and experimental learning opportunities at Washington State University Vancouver like the school’s Future Leaders Project, which aims to connect historically underserved students with paid summer internships and mentoring. The bill also supports the school’s ongoing efforts to increase the access, entry and retention of women and people of color in STEM fields. The campus serves a large population of first-generation college students (44 percent) and students of color (33 percent).

Sen. Cantwell attended the bill signing ceremony with President Biden last week. For more than a year, she’s been a main architect and key negotiator in each iteration of this legislation. This past spring, she led a group of more than 100 members of to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the package. And in her position as the first female Senator to chair the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, she was instrumental in securing the science R&D funding authorizations in the 11th hour of negotiations.