Central New York landed one of the state’s largest-ever private investments Tuesday when Micron committed to investing $100 billion in semiconductor manufacturing sites in Clay. 

United States Sen. Chuck Schumer called it this generation’s “Erie Canal moment.” Centerstate CEO Rob Simpson likened the predicted job creation to that of General Electric decades ago. 

Over the next two decades, state officials believe the investment could create 9,000 jobs at Micron’s facilities and another 40,000 jobs in the community. They predict that will juice the local economy with an additional $16.7 billion of economic output over the next 20 years. 

To win that investment, Onondaga County beat out several other sites and cities. So why Central New York?

Micron executives and government officials laid out some of the reasons during Tuesday’s press conference. Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said Micron found Central New York an attractive place to build a campus of semiconductor manufacturing plants.

Here’s a breakdown:

History with semiconductor manufacturing

New York has over time built up its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities. 

Global Foundries, another chip manufacturer, built a factory in Saratoga in 2009. The company moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Malta in the state’s Capital Region, and announced that it will be building a second manufacturing site there. 

Wolfspeed, yet another chip manufacturer, recently built a manufacturing site in Marcy in Mohawk Valley. That project, however, was much smaller. The facility cost $1 billion to build. 

Talent pool and higher education

Mehrotra said one of the key factors in Micron putting a facility in New York was its available talent in engineering and the number of higher education institutions they could partner with. 

The county and Syracuse University have already announced their plans to pony up $10 million for a semiconductor research center at the Syracuse Center for Excellence. The county also pledged another $5 million for skills training in partnership with Onondaga Community College to help develop a workforce for Micron to hire from. 

The state has an educational center in Albany, the Albany NanoTech Complex, which provides education in nanoscale science and engineering. 

Mehrotra also referenced the possibility of building partnerships with local schools to push students into engineering.

Access to energy and water

One of Syracuse and Central New York’s most important assets is the region’s access to fresh water. 

Fresh water is one of the most important resources to make semiconductors. The small wafers are cleaned with ultrapure water. Semiconductor manufacturers use millions of gallons of water at each facility. 

Micron’s Manish Bhatia, executive vice president of global operations, touted the power available to go to the site and the water available to the company. 

“We have a good building block with hydropower and there’s other elements of power in the state we’re excited about,” Bhatia said. “I think the county executive has really done a great job getting that site ready and commitments to water as well as water treatment.” 

Bhatia said that because of the number of plants they plan to build at White Pine — up to five — the area will still need to scale up its power capacity to the site after 2030. 

Tax Breaks

Micron had been looking for a location to put semiconductor manufacturing plants for more than a year before it chose Syracuse. 

Ultimately, two sets of incentives sped up Micron’s decision: The signing of the Green CHIPS Act by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the signing of a federal tax incentive for semiconductor manufacturers by President Joe Biden. Both happened this summer. 

Hochul and Biden signed those bills within two days of each other. 

Centerstate CEO president Rob Simpson said Biden’s signing of the bill on Aug. 9 immediately sped up negotiations. 

“It took about three minutes for all of us on the New York team to get calls from Micron putting in motion the next phase of work,” Simpson said. “At that point, I want to be clear, the deal was not done. But the pace of diligence and effort accelerated immensely.” 

Micron officials were reportedly in Albany the day Hochul signed the Green Chips bill Aug. 11. Bhatia said the passage of that bill marked a shift in Micron’s mindset toward putting a semiconductor manufacturing site in New York. 

“That was a big catalyst for us to be able to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, New York is really serious,’” Bhatia said. 

Micron will still have to apply for tax credits from the federal government. The bill signed by Biden earlier this year committed a pot of about $52 billion in tax credits to the semiconductor industry.  

The commitment of government dollars to support Micron’s project is already in the billions. Here’s what’s been committed by the local and state governments in incentives: 

  • $5.5 billion in Green CHIPS Excelsior tax credits to be disbursed in two phases over the next 20 years
  • $100 million from New York State’s Empire State Development corporation for community benefits fund
  • A 49-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency that will abate local and state sales tax on construction 
  • A $5 million facade grant from Onondaga County
  • A $10 million investment by Syracuse University and Onondaga County to establish a semiconductor research center at the Syracuse Center for Excellence
  • A $5 million workforce attraction grant from Onondaga County to assist with early ramp-up on hiring
  • A commitment by New York state to spend $200 million on infrastructure improvements in the area 

Micron will still have to apply for the PILOT. McMahon said that application is expected to be filed in the coming months. 

New York State will spend about $1 for every $20 spent by Micron to put the plant in Clay, according to a news release from Hochul’s office. 

Affordability and local schools

Mehrotra noted the county’s cost of living as a draw to the area and the quality of schools for employees’ kids. 

Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.