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Intel Oregon: The Heart of Our R&D

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By Al Thompson, VP of U.S. Government Relations, Intel

Intel broke ground in Oregon in 1974, and we have been innovating and investing in the state ever since, including more than $52 billion in capital. Our operations in Oregon are Intel’s largest concentration of facilities and talent in the world with over 22,000 employees across four campuses in Hillsboro. Today, we are celebrating our latest expansion D1X-Mod3 located at Oregon’s Ronler Acres, Intel’s largest R&D site. In honor of the site’s heritage of innovation, Intel also announced a new name for the nearly 500-acre campus: Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres.

Intel's Mod3  in Hillsboro, Oregon, a more than $3 billion investment to expand Oregon’s D1X development factory. (Credit: Intel Corporation)Intel's Mod3 in Hillsboro, Oregon, a more than $3 billion investment to expand Oregon’s D1X development factory. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Intel put its chips on the table and is building or expanding factories in Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon. This latest Oregon factory expansion, Mod3 – a more than $3 billion investment, is critical to support the development and ramp of future Intel leading edge technologies. At the same time, legislation to invest $52 billion in U.S. manufacturing and chipmaking is currently working its way through Congress. Funding the CHIPS Act (S. 1260) is critical to bolstering America’s technological competitiveness and will help level the playing field for American companies by providing federal incentives to build new factories in the U.S. and invest in essential technology research and development. 

This is the first in a series of blogs where I am speaking with the factory managers of Intel’s major U.S. operations about our impact on state communities, workforce development and economy at large. I invite you to read my recent conversation with Jeff Birdsall, Vice President and General Manager of Logic Technology Development Manufacturing at Intel in Oregon.

Al Thompson: How did you come to work at Intel?
Jeff Birdsall: I studied chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota and was introduced to Intel at a career fair in 1996. I was uncertain why a technology company like Intel would be looking for someone with a chemical engineering degree. One of the engineering managers explained that Intel is not just a technology company, but also a manufacturing company. When I found out the critical role engineering plays in our manufacturing processes, I was excited for the opportunity. Since then, I’ve been working at Intel in development and manufacturing for 26 years. I started my Intel career in New Mexico, spent time between there and California, and now have been in Oregon for the last 20 years. The more engaged I become with Intel’s manufacturing and development, the more excited I am about our impact on the world.

AT: Is there a particular event or person in your life that sparked your interest in engineering?
JB: My interest in engineering began at a young age, as I was always trying to figure out how things worked. My parents recall that as a child, I would take things apart around the house like a radio or phone and try to put them back together. Sometimes I would reassemble them correctly, and sometimes I wouldn’t, but it was my fascination in how things work that inspired me. In high school, I had a teacher that introduced me to chemistry and sparked my interest in chemical engineering. I also began tutoring and mentoring other students, which further solidified my passion in the area.

AT: What technologies are developed and manufactured at Intel’s Oregon facilities?
JB: Microprocessors manufactured in Oregon are the key component in supply chains for the digital world. Our Technology Development teams focus on the manufacturing technology required to enable Intel products and bring innovations into the world. They produce the transistor building blocks that are used to build a microprocessor.

To maintain a predictable Moore’s Law cadence, multiple process technologies are in various stages of development and manufacturing at any given time. Process technology coupled with packaging, memory, software, and architecture create a full set of devices that power the digital world all around us. Everything is becoming more digitalized, and everything digital needs a semiconductor. Our teams are on the cutting edge of the next generation of technology. Much of what happens at Intel, happens first in Oregon.

AT: How will future investments in R&D and manufacturing impact the state’s overall economy and workforce?
JB: Manufacturing is the biggest industry in Oregon, and Intel is the state’s economic engine with a downstream impact of over 100,000 jobs accounting for 4% of statewide employment. Since we broke ground in 1974, we have invested $52 billion in capital to build high-tech manufacturing capacity in Oregon, and each year we spend billions with Oregon based organizations and suppliers. Intel alone contributes over $19 billion to Oregon’s GDP.

We also hire from our local universities for a variety of focus areas, including technicians, engineering, business and more, and have ongoing partnerships to provide students with work experience and internships. In 2021, we hired over 2,000 highly skilled technicians and engineers in support of our IDM 2.0 goals, and we are continuing our hiring in 2022. Increasing workforce development is not only beneficial for technology companies in Oregon, but also for the state’s overall economy.

AT: How does Intel give back to the Oregon community?
JB: It is important that companies play an active role in their communities, and I am glad intel encourages employees to give back. In my time at Intel, I have had a chance to participate in multiple events including donations at food banks, cleaning community parks, mentoring at local schools, and having Intel match my financial donations. I see thousands of employees contribute similarly every day, and I am proud of the positive impact we have on the local area. It’s great to see our employees not only contribute at work, but also bring their skills and passion into community roles.

In 2020, Intel Employees contributed over 136,000 volunteer hours and $10 million to local schools and non-profits through donations, Intel Foundation match, and volunteer grants. In addition, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ronler Acres, Intel pledged $300,000 to four non-profits on behalf of employees. It’s incredible to see our leadership and employees engaging within our communities.

AT: How does Intel promote sustainable manufacturing practices at its facilities?
JB: We continually strive to improve our operations and minimize our impact on the environment. A commitment to sustainability requires a broad portfolio of efforts. We pursue new ways to reduce emissions, conserve energy while investing in renewable energy, improve building efficiency, improve our water conservation, and more.

For example, Intel works to conserve water and support Oregon’s water resources. Our large water reclaim facility enabled us to conserve about 2.4 billion gallons of water in 2020. In addition, we invested in seven projects with environmental groups to help restore water to the McKenzie, Willamette, Tualatin, and Deschutes Rivers, and we continue to invest in other conservation projects.

AT: What does working at Intel mean to you?
JB: Our company purpose is to create world changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet. This seems like a bold statement, but when you take a step back and look at everything semiconductors enable, it is not that far-fetched.

What we do in Oregon is critical, challenging, rewarding, and unique. Manufacturing cutting edge technology requires you to solve brand new problems that have never been faced before. I find that very motivating. Employees rally around that challenge to create products that improve the way we live and work. It creates a sense of shared mission and pulls people together as a family.

This is what makes Intel a special place to work and contributes to an important role for the world. We’re creating the future every single day, and there’s never been a more exciting time to be in the semiconductor industry.

Learn more about Intel Oregon.