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Editorial: Intel’s retooling NM plant

Finally, some good economic news, really good news at that. The announcement Monday from Intel Corp. it plans to invest $3.5 billion at its Rio Rancho plant is encouraging. The project will generate 700 high-paying permanent positions over three years and 1,000 construction jobs.

The company will retool its Rio Rancho facility, which had already become an “innovation hub,” into a domestic hub for advanced semiconductor manufacturing, even more promising given the long-term impact and reversal of job losses here.

The investment is Intel’s largest commitment to New Mexico since 2009. It’s worth the $5.75 million in Local Economic Development Act funds New Mexico will provide for the expansion, which includes $5 million from the state, $500,000 from Sandoval County, $250,000 from the city of Rio Rancho and a 50% rebate on gross receipt taxes generated during construction that’s expected to save Intel about $14 million.

The company’s new process of stacking microprocessors on top of one another, using technology called Foveros, will be managed at the Rio Rancho plant. Manufacture of advanced semiconductor devices using Foveros – including the first such chip, a fingernail-sized 3D-stacked chip called Lakefield – is expected to begin in late 2022, after the company retools and modernizes its 350,000-square-foot facility.

A spokesperson says the Rio Rancho facility remains a critical cog in Intel’s domestic and international operations – great news. Intel reduced its Rio Rancho operations from 3,300 people in 2013 to 1,100 in 2017. It increased to more than 1,800 employees last year, and the 700 new jobs as well as the 3,500 other jobs expected to be indirectly affected further boost Intel’s economic footprint in Rio Rancho.

For years, Intel was bypassing New Mexico to invest at other sites, especially Arizona. In fact, the company announced in March a $20 billion investment to build two more factories there. But announcement of the $3.5 billion investment and 700 high-paying jobs here are 700-plus causes for celebration. And, even better, Intel’s renewed commitment to New Mexico gives hope for decades to come.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.