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Report: Rio Rancho Intel plant not on chopping block

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Intel’s Rio Rancho plant does not appear to be facing closure in the company’s attempts to restructure and slash about 12,000 jobs worldwide, according to a new report in the Oregonian newspaper on Friday.

Rio Rancho could, however, be impacted by some of Intel’s upcoming layoffs. The newspaper said the company will tell employees by Monday which of its global facilities will face closures, and by next Friday, it will inform individual employees if they are slated for layoff.

The newspaper reported that Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich told employees last Tuesday the company is not closing any of its manufacturing sites as part of efforts to retool. Specifically, Krzanich said Intel “won’t leave its aging facility in New Mexico,” according to the Oregonian.

The newspaper said those comments come from an internal communication at Intel that were described to the Oregonian.

The report comes on the heels of Intel’s public announcement on Tuesday that it plans to cut its global workforce by about 11 percent.

The company has so far declined to discuss the restructuring plan’s impact on specific sites, including New Mexico.

On Friday, Intel New Mexico spokeswoman Natasha Martell Jackson said she could not confirm or deny anything reported by the Oregonian.

“We don’t comment on speculative reports,” Martell Jackson said.

Intel’s Rio Rancho plant has markedly reduced its New Mexico workforce in the last three years, from about 3,300 employees in 2013 to about 1,900 now. And, given the older chip technology produced in Rio Rancho, concern is widespread about the plant’s future viability.

The Rio rancho facility is still making 32-nanometer chips, while other, newer plants are producing 22- and 14-nanometer chips. That refers to the size of the transistors — measured in nanometers — that are mounted on chips. As they get smaller, the company can cram more of them onto each chip, greatly increasing computer processing power.

The company is now preparing to produce next-generation 10-nanometer chips, putting the Rio Rancho facility far behind the curve. The New Mexico facility hasn’t received any significant investment upgrade since 2009, when the plant went from 45 to 32-nanometer technology.

Intel will give some workers the option of taking a voluntary buyout before moving forward with involuntary layoffs. Those targeted for dismissal will be people who achieved substandard ratings based on employee evaluations in the company’s annual review process, according to the Oregonian.

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull on Friday said the city is waiting for an official announcement by Intel before commenting on the company’s plans in New Mexico. But he  said the city has diversified its investments in different economic projects in the last few years, citing the expansion of Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, the creation of Plaza at Enchanted Hills and the newly opened The Neighborhood as evidence the city’s dependence on Intel has decreased.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen over $150 million in commercial investment and we’ve seen 850 single homes constructed,” Hull said. “… While you’ve seen some attrition going on at the Intel plant, you’ve seen continued growth in Rio Rancho over the last couple of years.”

Material from the Rio Rancho Observer was used in this report.