High-tech heavyweight Intel Corp. announced Friday that it will build a 6,000-employee computer-chip plant and research facility south of Tacoma, presenting state economic recruiters with their biggest prize ever.
While Boeing, Microsoft, Weyerhaeuser and other major employers grew up in the state, Intel’s decision to spend $50 million to $100 million on the plant is the first time an out-of-state company has made that size investment in Washington.
“This is a huge project, clearly the largest of its nature,” said Dave McCraney, director of business development for the state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development.
The deal vaults Washington into a select league of Western states with major computer-chip factories. But as one of the world’s most recognized names for computer chips, Intel’s presence is especially sweet.
In addition to bringing high-paying jobs to the state, the deal will make it easier for Washington communities, even East Side ones like Spokane, to catch the attention of companies looking to expand or move in the Northwest, McCraney said.
“It doesn’t have to be 6,000 jobs; Spokane gets them 60 at a time,” said Dave McCraney, director of business development for the state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development.
“When news gets out in Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Tel Aviv, people will say, ‘Wow! Intel is big. They could have gone anywhere, but they went to Washington.’ Some companies are going to look at Washington, but would rather be in Spokane than Pierce County.”
Intel itself looked at sites around the state, including some in Spokane, McCraney said. But the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company dismissed locations that were far from Sea-Tac International Airport, the state’s busiests airline hub.
Intel, the world’s largest computer-chip manufacturer and one of the hottest companies on Wall Street, began its search 13 months ago.
Construction should begin late next month in tiny Du Pont, Wash., located along Interstate 5 about 15 miles south of Tacoma, company officials said.
“We look forward to working with the people of Washington to make this new site a reality,” said Craig Barrett, Intel executive vice president and chief operating officer. “The support of the community, the governor, state officials, local officials and all the other parties has been tremendous so far.”
Gov. Mike Lowry returned the compliment.
“These are the jobs of the 21st century,” he said. “This is a high-wage, environmentally sensitive company - just the kind of business we want in this state.”
The 192-acre plant site is owned by Weyerhaeuser Co. A manufacturing plant and office building with 450 to 500 workers would open by June, and 1,200 people are expected to be working there by the end of 1996.
Pay for the jobs is expected to range from $15,000 to $60,000 a year.
A second construction phase would add two more office buildings and another plant, with the cost estimated in the “multi-hundreds of millions,” Intel spokesman Howard High said.
In five years, the complex is expected to employ 6,000 people, which would make it the largest private employer in Pierce County.
“Intel will provide well-paying jobs to Puget Sound residents on into the next century, and they contribute to the long-needed diversification of Pierce County’s economy,” said U.S. Rep. Randy Tate, R-Wash., who represents the district.
The decision comes 13 months after representatives of Intel, which also has major manufacturing facilities in Portland, the Silicon Valley, Arizona and New Mexico, inquired about finding a site in the state. Talks with state and county officials began four months ago.
“It’s been a fantastic effort by all the people we’ve been working with, starting with the state, county, city of Du Pont and the governor,” said Pat Raburn, Intel’s site manager. “We believe with us coming to the Pacific Northwest, it enhances the region’s emergence as a high-tech leader.”
Pete Kerwein, business strategist for Washington Water Power Co., said traditionally Washington has not been very active in economic recruitment.
But that’s starting to change, and Intel provides a big trophy to show other potential recruits.
Officials in Du Pont, which has fewer than 600 residents, got a quick payoff on their economoic development efforts. The town recently adopted a comprehensive growth plan that set a target of about 6,000 new jobs by 2012.
“It’s a little larger than expected for the first jump out the box,” Mayor Will Shenkel said. “I was hoping we might get three or four small employers first. This will be a big change.”
Some employees will be relocated from other Intel sites but the vast majority of the company’s work force will be hired locally, Raburn said.