People gathering outside

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger prepares for groundbreaking
Photo by: Donte Woods-Spikes

Intel Corporation and the State of Ohio sealed their marriage on Friday with the officiant flying in on Air Force One just in time to pronounce the happy couple forever joined at the chip. 

The groom, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, had thrown a public tantrum in early July, calling off the scheduled ceremony because the bride’s Uncle Sam went on vacation without leaving a credit card number to provide the dowry. He even threatened to elope to Europe with another bride. 

But there was no mention of that hiccup on this sunny September morning in New Albany, Ohio. The couple dozen attendants each gave a speech predicting the most productive marriage ever of any global corporate power and lonely rust belt state. 

Billed as a groundbreaking ceremony, a good deal of ground had been broken before the ceremony began. Earthmovers were lined up around the temporary outdoor seating area, parked in neat rows nearby for aerial cameras to capture, and occasionally paraded behind the speakers, who were each announced by Jerry Revish while the Best Damn Band in the Land played the Ohio State fight song. 

President Joe Biden heralded the passing of the $39B CHIPS Act (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors in America) thirty days ago as a monumental achievement of a bipartisan effort in Congress that allowed the Intel development near New Albany to begin. He capped his speech with a laundry list of the other developments across the nation, also funded by the CHIPS act, that might be shoring up Intel’s competitors. 

Senator Sherrod Brown gave an impassioned speech sharing his excitement over the labor requirements of the deal (e.g., prevailing wage) and the turnaround that this investment foreshadows in the manufacturing sector in Ohio.

Workers from the excavation company were at the event, presumably because someone needed to drive the earthmovers. They were seated in the very back and prevented from speaking to the media.

In addition to moving a lot of dirt and pouring a lot of concrete to create fabs in Ohio, Intel is spurring the development of collegiate consortiums across the midwest to train tech workers who will be needed to staff the fabs. An announcement in March detailed a $50M grant program for Ohio colleges and universities. The first $18M of those grants were announced at the event with many of the college presidents in attendance. 

Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, is the only Historically Black College/University (HBCU) on the list. Its president, Dr. Jack Thomas was not asked to speak but expressed his excitement at being at the event, “We should be at the table.” 

Many of the speeches from politicians and Intel executives touted a goal of a diverse workforce but Jim Evers, the newly appointed manager of the Ohio operations, was the only speaker who got close to defining what that means. He mentioned that Intel’s hiring strategies will work to eventually mirror the community, with no details of which community, or when that goal would be achieved. 

The invitation-only event began early with security check-ins at a remote location, complete with bomb-sniffing dogs. The caterers, bands, media, and guests were all shuttled to the venue on comfortable buses and provided food by Cameron Mitchell, soft jazz by an outstanding band, and trade-show-like exhibits staffed by Intel’s Event Department. 

Guests could watch a 360° video tour of an existing Intel “fab,” sit in a robotic tractor, see a display of previous generation chips, and talk to any number of Intel staff and officers milling around before the event. 

And yes, about twenty dignitaries along with one science-gifted eight-year-old did pick up old-fashioned shovels, painted Intel blue, and move some dirt that was brought in for the event decorated with the words OHIO LET’S BUILD that magically transformed into the words MADE IN AMERICA.