Taiwan-based semiconductor silicon wafer manufacturer GlobalWafers has announced plans to build a silicon wafer factory in  Sherman, Texas, thus strengthening the Lone Star State’s position as the country’s main recipient of FDI in chipmaking. 

This will be “the first [facility] of its kind in the US” in more than 20 years, GlobalWafers CEO Doris Hsu told the SelectUSA investment summit on June 27. The company expects to start the construction of its facility this year, according to a statement released on the same day.

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GlobalWafers expects its 3.2m-sq-ft facility will create as many as 1500 jobs and produce as many as 1.2 million wafers per month. Production is anticipated as early as 2025, according to the company statement.  

Ms Hsu told the summit that the silicon wafer facility will be “among the largest in the world”.

The investment is in line with the company’s announcement of its capacity expansion plan across Asia, Europe and the US worth up to up to T$100bn ($3.37bn) in February 2022. The US commerce department confirmed to fDi that the company is willing to invest as much as $5bn in the Sherman facility alone. 

According to investment monitor fDi Markets, Texas has been the leading US state for attracting FDI in semiconductors for the past 10 years. The state has received $23bn of semiconductor FDI across 16 projects since January 2012, making this the second-largest industry in Texas. Samsung chose Taylor, Texas to build its  chip plant, worth around $17bn, in November 2021. This investment was the greatest FDI in the state, and the second-largest FDI in the country, since records began in 2003.

“GlobalWafers’ ongoing partnership with the City of Sherman … will [boost] Texas’s global position in the semiconductor industry amid a worldwide chip shortage,” Texas governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Reshoring push 

The private sector and the US government are increasingly coming together to build resilience in strategic value chains, particularly the semiconductor value chain. 

“With the global chips shortage and ongoing geopolitical concerns, our manufacturers will help strengthen the American supply chain resilience,” Doris Hsu told the SelectUSA summit. 

Silicon wafers of 300mm, which are thin slices of semiconductor, are key components for all advanced semiconductor fabrication sites run by major chip companies such as the US’s Intel, South Korea’s Samsung, Japan’s Sumco and Taiwan’s TMSC.

“We, at the Commerce Department, are laser-focused on rebuilding and strengthening and expanding the domestic supply chain of semiconductors here in the US,” Gina Raimondo, the US Secretary of Commerce, told the event. This country is keen to turn the tide on the decline in its share of  global chip manufacturing, which stands at about 12% today, down from 37% in 1990. 

Asia-based silicon wafer manufacturing is forcing the US semiconductor industry to rely heavily on imported silicon wafers, and consequently reduce the resilient supply chain of semiconductors.  

Despite the GlobalWafers announcement, Congress has not reached consensus on how to provide funding for the Creative Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (Chips) Act, which includes $52bn of federal incentives for domestic semiconductor research, design and manufacturing. The Chips Act was enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act 2021. Intel has delayed breaking ground on its chip-making facility in Columbus, Ohio due to Congress’s delay regarding incentives.

“Time is of the essence,” said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger in March. He added in a press release on June 8: “The only way to alleviate the current supply-demand imbalance long term is to increase manufacturing capacity by funding and implementing the Chips Act.”