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Wolfspeed to build $5B plant in Chatham County

 Rendering of the future plant in Chatham County.
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Wolfspeed
Rendering of the future plant in Chatham County.

A Durham-based company will build a factory in Chatham County that makes a key part for computer chips.

Wolfspeed says the Siler City plant will be the largest of its kind in the world.

About 1,800 workers will make silicon carbide wafers. They will be shipped to a plant in New York, where computer chips will be imbedded into them.

Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe joined Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials at the executive mansion in Raleigh on Friday to announce the project. Lowe says the facility will help meet a growing demand for semiconductors.

"Factory machines and motors will use less energy," Lowe said. "Network data farms will be able to be more efficient and solar installations will deliver more electricity at home to making us less dependent on fossil fuels."

Lowe says Wolfspeed will invest $5 billion in the plant, which is scheduled to open in 2024. The state is giving the company about $1 billion in incentives. The company is also hoping to apply for funding from the federal CHIPS Act, which encourages semiconductor production in the U.S.

The Wolfspeed announcement attracted attention from the White House.

“Even as the President celebrates the groundbreaking for a new Intel semiconductor plant in Ohio, it is wonderful to see another pivotal announcement in the chips industry from Wolfspeed in North Carolina,” National Economic Council chair Brian Deese said in a statement. “This $5 billion investment will create thousands of good-paying jobs, while rebuilding America’s supply chains here at home and ultimately helping to lower prices for the American people. We applaud Wolfspeed and congratulate both Governor Cooper and all North Carolinians.”

The company will also partner with North Carolina A&T State University on a career training program.

“The partnership that has been announced today leverages those strengths in industry and in academia to create opportunities for undergraduate and graduate education and credentials, actually real credentials in the semiconductor manufacturing sector,” A&T board of trustees chair Hilda Pinnix-Ragland said.

Wolfspeed is the latest company to make major investments in Chatham County. Earlier this year, Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced plans for an electric vehicle factory near Moncure. Construction on the project is already underway.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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