Oct. 12--ALBANY -- Excitement over the 1,000 new jobs and $1.5 billion in investment that will materialize in Oneida County from the state's creation of the Nano Utica computer chip consortium nearly overshadowed one critical part of the deal that will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional high-tech funding for Albany.
Sematech, the international computer chip consortium that operates at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Fuller Road, has agreed to a new five-year, $350 million contract with the NanoCollege.
For the state and the Capital Region, the deal is no less important than the one negotiated back in 2007 when Sematech agreed to move its headquarters to Albany from Austin, Texas, bringing with it nearly 500 jobs.
Under the terms of that previous five-year, $600 million deal, which was signed in 2008, the state put up half the money.
But this time around, the deal will be a lot cheaper. Sematech will spend another $300 million over five years. But the state's share will only be $50 million -- a reflection of the NanoCollege's clout in the industry today, state officials say.
Sematech, created in the 1980s as a way for U.S. chip companies to regain market share from Japanese competitors, began moving operations from its original home in Austin to Albany back in 2002.
Today, Sematech's members include most of the world's major chip companies and suppliers who work together on what's known as "pre-competitive" research. The model spreads out the cost of solving technology problems in chip-making that cost billions of dollars to solve and without which the whole industry would suffer. Sematech programs employ 800 people at the NanoCollege, most of them well-paid engineers and scientists.
Sematech CEO Daniel Armbrust revealed the contract with the state on Thursday at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's unveiling of the Nano Utica program, which will take place at the SUNY Institute of Technology, in the Utica suburb of Marcy. Sematech is one of six firms to participate in the program, which will be housed in a $125 million research complex being built by the NanoCollege on the campus, which sits across the road from a 400-acre site the state is marketing as a potential location for computer chip fabs.
"This announcement dramatically expands on vital and needed New York-based capabilities for the industry, where advantages come by close proximity," Armbrust said.
Another surprise from Thursday is that a majority of the $1.5 billion going into the Nano Utica consortium was pulled together by Hector Ruiz, whose presence at Thursday's event was unexpected. Ruiz was CEO of Advanced Micro Devices in 2006 when his company agreed to build a computer chip factory in Saratoga County in exchange for more than $1 billion in state subsidies. He has kept a relatively low profile since resigning from his job as chairman of GlobalFoundries, the AMD spin-off that eventually built the factory, in the fall of 2009.
Now, Ruiz appears to be returning the favor to New York, having lined up an enormous amount of capital for a start-up operation. The Nano Utica group that his new company Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions will lead will focus on computer chip "packaging" -- the protective material that encases chips and includes the complex wiring that connects them to the electronic devices they power.
Ruiz's firm specializes in chip packaging that has become increasingly more important as companies start looking at "stacking" chips on top of one another, creating what's being called 3-D chips.
Ruiz's company, which foresees creating as many as 1,000 jobs at Nano Utica, will specialize in 3-D chip packaging R&D. That would not only be a coup for the state, but also the U.S. since the center of the chip packaging industry is in Asia.
"We intend to be a leader in bringing essential manufacturing jobs back to the United States," said Ruiz, who also visited the Marcy chip fab site in 2006, ultimately picking the Luther Forest site in Malta where GlobalFoundries now operates what's known as Fab 8.
"I can tell you, without qualification, the transformation is awesome," Ruiz said.
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