NC Wins Wolfspeed’s Semiconductor Materials Factory

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina-based semiconductor company announced Friday that it will build a $5 billion manufacturing facility in its home state to produce silicon carbide wafers , which is becoming a favored part of renewable energy products.

What do you want to know

  • The $5 billion plant to make silicon carbide wafers is expected to create 1,800 jobs in Chatham County by the end of 2030
  • Semiconductor maker Wolfspeed Inc. could get $775 million in cash incentives, infrastructure improvements and other sweeteners from state and local governments
  • Durham-based Wolfspeed said its relationship with NC A&T factored into the decision to build the new plant in North Carolina.

Wolfspeed Inc. said it plans to create 1,800 new jobs by the end of 2030 at a location in Chatham County, about 45 miles 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. Most would take the form of local property tax refunds.

A state committee voted earlier Friday to award Wolfspeed up to $76 million over 20 years whether it met the investment and job creation objectives. 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 has more than 3,000 jobs in the state. The former LED light pioneer turned to producing silicon carbide 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 the 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 picking Greensboro for its first full-scale manufacturing facility for next-generation supersonic airliners.

Chatham County also got the brass ring in March when Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced it would build its first North American plant 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 operations in Durham, as well as the company’s relationship with NC A&T at Greensboro, a historically black university, “gave it a little edge,” he said.

Wolfspeed also announced expanded initiatives on Friday to attract the school’s engineering students to the semiconductor field.

NC State graduate students in Raleigh helped start what is now Wolfspeed in 1987.

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