Jun. 26, 2004 12:00 AM
When Intel's computer-chip-making factory Fab 12 began rising from a swath of
Chandler farmland a decade ago, it promised high-paying jobs, national
attention and a $1.3 billion asset to the local economy.
It was the world's largest private construction project in 1994, and two years
later, about 1,000 employees began filing into the stark white "clean
rooms" to operate the equipment that makes computer chips.
But fast-evolving technology already has rendered the facility a dinosaur,
which is why Intel is spending $2 billion to outfit it with the most
up-to-date equipment. The renovation began in late April, and since then more
than 800 employees have been temporarily relocating to Oregon, New Mexico and
Ireland to learn the latest technology.
"I realize it doesn't get as much press as BOB, but it's the equivalent
of five Bank One Ballparks," said Intel Chief Executive Officer Craig
Barrett of Paradise Valley. "We're putting $2 billion in the ground in
Chandler because the computer workforce is valued, productive, efficient, well-trained
and contributes to the bottom line."
The facility won't create new jobs. But the upgrade is significant for what it
will keep here, not for what it will bring. Fab 12 could have been shut
down and hundreds of jobs lost, said Dave Olney, site development
manager for Intel.
In addition to keeping high-paying jobs in town - the starting salary for
technicians is $40,000 - Fab 12 will continue to sustain local engineering and
service companies. It also boosts the community's assessed property value,
said Garrett Newland, economic development director for the city.
Steve Megli and David Aires, both of Ahwatukee Foothills, will manage the
factory. Aires is one of the original managers, and Megli joins him from Fab
Jobs in the new fabrication facility are highly coveted, said Jeanne Forbis of
Chandler, Intel spokeswoman. The Santa Clara, Calif., company opened the
opportunity to workers in Fab 12 and Fab 22, both at 4500 S. Dobson Road.
Starting last month, about 400 workers headed to an Intel plant in Hillsboro,
Ore., 400 to Rio Rancho, N.M., and 20 to Leixlip, Ireland.
For Jo Sepulveda, 42, of Gilbert, it was a chance to try something new. She
readily volunteered to learn the new technology in Albuquerque.
"It's a great opportunity to grow with Intel and the new
technology," she said. "The best thing is the experience and the
change in pace, and the new tool sets and technology that are being used.
Intel has come a long way."
When Fab 12 is upgraded, it will make 300-millimeter wafers, which hold about
85 more chips than 200mm wafers. That means the plant will be able to make
more computer chips in the same amount of time, saving money in the long run.
This is the first time an old plant has been transformed into a cutting edge
300mm facility, Forbis said. If successful, the project could pave the way for
future upgrades around the globe.