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New Mexico awaits fate of troubled Intel Rio Rancho plant

RIO RANCHO — A massive Intel plant has been a cornerstone in Rio Rancho for nearly a generation, having pumped billions of dollars into the state economy and helping to fund a number of public schools.

Now Intel’s plan for massive companywide job cuts is creating uncertainty in Rio Rancho.

The company is expected to unveil details this week that could determine the future of the Rio Rancho plant and others in Oregon, Arizona and California.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel announced last week it is cutting 12,000 jobs — about 11 percent of its workforce. The move is part of its effort to reorganize amid declining personal computer sales.

In Rio Rancho, Intel operates an aging facility that producers nanometer chips that are becoming obsolete.  In recent years, the plant has seen a steady decline in workers and now employs 1,900 people.

The Oregonian newspaper reported last week that Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich told employees the company wouldn’t  close any of its manufacturing sites and specifically mentioned the Rio Rancho plant. The newspaper said the comments came from an internal communication at Intel that were described to the Oregonian.

“Intel is one of the most important companies, not just for Rio Rancho, but for the state of New Mexico. They create the types of jobs we want,” said Terri Cole, president/CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. “Any talk of job cuts make us all uneasy.”

Intel Rio Rancho spokeswoman Natasha Martell Jackson said the company was not releasing any details about possible job reductions in Rio Rancho or elsewhere at this time.

The distressing news comes as the state is seeing lower revenue because of sagging prices for oil and natural gas — two other key industries in the state.

Intel said job cuts will include voluntary and involuntary departures over the coming year, some occurring as Intel consolidates some of its PC chip operations at fewer locations.

Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at TIRIAS Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm, said he doesn’t see a bright future for the Rio Rancho facility even though the company recently said it wouldn’t be closing any plants in the near future.

“It’s an old (factory). It’s landlocked,” McGregor said. “It may die a slow, painful death.”

It would be hard to find another viable use for the Rio Rancho facility, McGregor said.

Mike Lonergan, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, said the Republican governor met with Intel representatives last week after the company announced job reductions were on the way.

“The governor … is committed to continuing to create a competitive business environment in New Mexico to help all businesses grow and prosper,” Lonergan said.

Intel also has large campuses in Portland, Oregon; Chandler, Arizona; and Santa Clara and Folsom, California. It also has facilities in other countries including Israel and China.