North Carolina won Wolfspeed Semiconductor Materials Plant

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — A North Carolina-based semiconductor company said Friday it will build a $5 billion manufacturing plant in its home state to make silicon carbide wafers, which is emerging as a hot spot 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 45 miles (72 kilometers) southwest of its headquarters in Durham.

Wolfspeed could receive $775 million in cash incentives, infrastructure improvements and other sweeteners from North Carolina and local governments to build on the outskirts of Siler City. The lion’s share will come in the form of local property tax credits.

A state commission voted earlier Friday to award Wolfspeed up to $77 million over 20 years if it meets investment and job creation goals. The company is also likely to benefit financially from legislation President Joe Biden signed 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 has turned to producing silicon carbine chips, which are known to be more efficient and solid than traditional silicon chips.

“It’s a game-changing technology for electric vehicles, renewable energy storage, rail systems, appliances … and countless other electric applications,” Wolfspeed CEO Greg Lowe said in 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 at the new plant, which Lowe said could begin production in about two years, would be more than 10 times what the Durham plant produces.

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 wages for the new jobs, to be created starting 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” and called Friday “a great day for high-paying jobs and an important day to put money in the pockets of everyday working families in our state.”

Lowe likened a silicon chip electric vehicle to an internal combustion engine car whose gas tank is full of holes. Meanwhile, he said, a silicon carbide chip inside an inverter that converts electricity to turn the vehicle’s engine results in ultra-fast recharging, he said — 20 minutes to add another 300 miles to his vehicle’s range , for example.

The jobs announcement marked another major 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 will build a battery plant in Randolph County, while next month Boom Supersonic will select Greensboro for the first full-scale production facility for next-generation supersonic passenger jets.

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

Wolfspeed had considered expanding to Marcy, New York, where its new manufacturing facility is located and had additional room for expansion, according to a state Commerce Department filing.

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

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

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

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