North Carolina Wins Wolfspeed Semiconductor Materials Facility


North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, right, presents Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe with a piece of pottery as a gift during an economic development announcement ceremony at the Executive Mansion on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wolfspeed, a Durham-based silicon chip maker, will build a new factory in Chatham County promising the creation of 1,800 new jobs. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)


A North Carolina-based semiconductor company announced Friday that it will build a $5 billion manufacturing plant in its home state to produce wafers of silicon carbide, which is becoming a preferred for renewable energy products.

Wolfspeed Inc. said it plans to create 1,800 new jobs by the end of 2030 at a site in Chatham County, about 72 kilometers southwest of its Durham headquarters.

Wolfspeed could benefit from $775 million in cash incentives, infrastructure improvements and other sweeteners from North Carolina and local governments and the state legislature to build on the outskirts of Siler City, according to a state document. The lion’s share would be in the form of local property tax refunds.

A state committee voted earlier Friday to award Wolfspeed up to $76 million over 20 years if it meets its investment and job creation goals. The company should also benefit financially from legislation signed by President Joe Biden last month that encourages semiconductor research and production.

The company, formerly known as Cree, already employs more than 3,000 people in the state. The former LED light pioneer turned to producing silicon rifle chips, known to be more efficient and robust than traditional silicon chips.

“It’s a game-changing technology for electric vehicles, renewables, storage, rail systems, appliances…and countless other electric applications,” said Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe. during the announcement outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.

Lowe said the company already operates the world’s largest silicon carbide materials plant in Durham. Output from the new plant, which Lowe said could begin production in about two years, would be more than 10 times that of the Durham plant.

Materials produced at the new plant will help supply the company’s new chip manufacturing facility in upstate New York, Lowe said.

This “East Coast Silicon Carbide Corridor will dramatically improve the way the world consumes energy,” Lowe said.

Average annual salaries for the new jobs, which would be generated beginning in 2026, are projected at $77,753, well above the county average of $41,638, according to state officials.

Gov. Roy Cooper said the Wolfspeed news was a “historic capital investment” in the state and called Friday “another step in our march to a clean energy economy” as well as “an incredible day for well-paying jobs. ”

Lowe compared an electric vehicle with silicon chips to a car with a combustion engine that has holes in its gas tank. Meanwhile, he said, a silicon carbide chip in an inverter that converts electricity to run the vehicle’s engine results in lightning-fast charging, he said – 20 minutes to add 300 additional miles to the autonomy of his vehicle, for example.

The jobs announcement marked another big economic win for central North Carolina in the past 17 months.

Apple announced plans in April 2021 to build its first East Coast campus in Research Triangle Park between Raleigh and Durham. Toyota revealed in December that it would build a battery plant in Randolph County, followed the following month by Boom Supersonic choosing Greensboro for its first full-scale manufacturing facility for next-generation supersonic passenger aircraft.

Chatham County also got the brass ring in March when Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced it would build its first North American factory there to make electric vehicles. The investment, which could generate 7,500 jobs, would follow several near failures by the state to attract a car manufacturer.

Wolfspeed had been considering expansion to Marcy, New York, where its new production facility is located and where it had additional space for expansion, according to a state Department of Commerce document.

Lowe said after the announcement that the company looked at multiple states and New York “has put together a really solid package.”

But the winning site’s proximity to Wolfspeed’s current operations in Durham, as well as the company’s relationship with North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, a historically black university, “gave it a bit of an edge,” it said. -he declares. Wolfspeed also announced expanded initiatives on Friday to attract the school’s engineering students to the semiconductor field.

Graduate students from North Carolina State University in Raleigh helped start what is now Wolfspeed in 1987.

This story was originally published September 9, 2022 1:11 p.m.

Lynn A. Saleh