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INDIANA
From Site Selection magazine, March 2024
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An Underdog No More

A Hoosier’s 25-year trek in semiconductor manufacturing brings him back home to Indiana.

INDIANA
Rendering of new NHanced Semiconductors campus in Indiana
by RON STARNER
C

ritical elements of America’s semiconductor supply chain continue to grow rapidly in the Midwest as states compete for billions of dollars in federal CHIPS and Science Act funds. At least one state in the region seeks to capitalize on an often-overlooked aspect of this market: the high-tech packaging required by the world’s most advanced microelectronic chips.

Recent project announcements in multiple cities suggest that Indiana is going all in on this sector and the companies that feed off it. Like the movie “Hoosiers,” this underdog story was years in the making.

 

Critical elements of America’s semiconductor supply chain continue to grow rapidly in the Midwest as states compete for billions of dollars in federal CHIPS and Science Act funds. At least one state in the region seeks to capitalize on an often-overlooked

Founder and CEO Bob Patti cuts the ribbon to officially open the new NHanced Semiconductors facility in Odon, Indiana. His team members joined him in the celebration.

Photos courtesy of NHanced Semiconductors

 

At the center of this tale is an upstart firm named NHanced Semiconductors Inc. Founded in 2016 by Bob Patti, it is a spinoff of Tezzaron Semiconductor Corp., an Austin-based firm launched in 1999, also by Patti.

“We have been pursuing this advanced packaging technology for almost 25 years,” says Patti, president of NHanced, based in Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago. “This is the path forward for the next generation of semiconductors. It enables new performance and continuation of Moore’s Law. It offers a wide range of capabilities that are hard to achieve using standard boundary technologies. For example, Nvidia said it cost them over $2 billion to develop their new chip. Using chiplets and new packaging, we can innovate much cheaper.”

What is a chiplet, you ask? Semiconductor Engineering says it is “a discreet, unpackaged die that can be assembled into a package with other chiplets; each chiplet is optimized to its function, using the node best suited to the function.”

“This is a game-changer,” says Patti. “We are about to enter a renaissance — a new golden age in the semiconductor industry like what we saw in the 1980s.”

Patti is such a strong believer in this technology that he is willing to bankroll a fortune on it. He is funding construction of three new plants in Odon and Bloomington, Indiana. “Combined, these projects will be north of $500 million when they are done,” he tells Site Selection. “We will invest over $100 million by the end of 2024. The rest will be phased in over three years.”

The breakthrough came January 19 when NHanced cut the ribbon on a 30,000-sq.-ft. advanced package assembly facility in Odon, a town of 1,400 people in southwestern Indiana, about 42 miles south of Bloomington on Interstate 69. Combined with another facility the firm is building there, the new foundry complex in Daviess County will create 413 jobs at an average annual wage of $100,000 and cost $236 million.

Called the NHanced WestGate Facility, the complex is being billed as an effort to “establish a world-class semiconductor and microelectronics ecosystem in Indiana.”

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As Patti noted at the ribbon-cutting, “This is our first step in bringing advanced semiconductor packaging to Indiana. Our final aim, when the WestGate One complex is complete, is to deliver full Foundry 2.0 services to fulfill the needs of the U.S. government.”

Battle Stations and Beyond

The foundry will serve as a supplier to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), a naval lab and field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in expeditionary warfare, strategic missions and electromagnetic warfare. The new Odon facility features two cleanrooms, one for packaging work and one for training of personnel who will work at another NHanced foundry in Bloomington, Indiana, set to open later this year.

NHanced and several other semiconductor firms will occupy the 10-acre public-private development next to NSWC Crane in Odon. 

About 45 minutes north of Odon in Bloomington, NHanced is building a separate $152-million foundry that will employ another 250 workers at average annual salaries of $100,000. Patti has told other news outlets that this plant, a 175,000-sq.-ft. renovated Cook Medical facility, could have as many as 400 workers by 2029 and eventually host 1,000 high-tech jobs.

“Bloomington is a substantial facility project for us,” says Patti. “This is all just what we have planned so far. We have room to expand.”

NHanced broke ground on a second facility in Odon back in November of 2022. “We will build two or three modest-scale lines to make 200- and 300-millimeter wafers,” Patti says. “That building will be completed by 2026. We will expand the amount of foundry work we are doing in Odon. It will focus mostly on government needs.”

When I asked Patti why he chose Indiana, he cited several factors. “Indiana has a large quantity of engineers graduating out of Rose-Hulman, Purdue, Indiana University and Notre Dame,” he says. “Purdue graduates thousands of engineers every year. Historically, they got a diploma and a plane ticket because there were no jobs in the state for these grads. I am a graduate of Rose-Hulman myself, and I want to change that.”

Patti says he finds a higher caliber of worker in the Midwest. “This workforce wants to be in the Midwest,” he says. “The work ethic is very good here. The state is very pro-business. We have other customers in Indiana that we do business with. And the presence of our key customer, NSWC Crane, was the precipitating event. This is the right place at the right time.”

When asked if he considered other states, Patti said, “We could have gone to Upstate New York or Arizona. There are large workforces there too. But we are a small player. I am important to Indiana. I would not be important to Arizona.” 

 

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Multiple incentives helped seal the deal, he adds. “The Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) did a tremendous job,” he says. “They put a package together for us and connected us to local folks and utilities. So did the economic developers in Odon. They connected us to providers of materials and services for construction. They did an excellent job of easing our expansion and getting things rolling. The Bloomington-Monroe County people were an enormous help as well. They made inroads in workforce development and connected us to Purdue. That relationship has significantly matured in the last year.”

Meta Clicks ‘Like’ in Indiana

Three other semiconductor firms will join NHanced at the WestGate complex: Everspin Technologies of Arizona will build a 10,000-sq.-ft. fabrication and R&D facility and hire 35 people. Trusted Semiconductor Solutions of Minnestoa will invest $34 million and create 40 jobs; and Reliable MicroSystems of Tennessee will invest $7.3 million and hire 61 people.

Brock Herr, senior vice president of business development at IEDC, says the state is awarding $10 million to NHanced in the form of incentive-based tax credits and up to $1 million in training grants. “These tax credits are performance-based, meaning the company is eligible to claim incentives once Hoosiers are hired,” he says. “The will also invest up to $10 million in redevelopment tax credits, which provide an incentive for companies to invest in redevelopment and revitalization to improve the quality of place within Indiana.”

 

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Just a few days after the NHanced ribbon-cutting, Indiana received another jolt of economic infusion when Meta Platforms Inc., the Menlo, California-based parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, announced plans to build an $800-million data center campus on a 619-acre site in Jeffersonville in southern Indiana.

Part of Meta’s planned $37 billion expansion of its digital technology infrastructure across America, the project will support 100 high-wage jobs in the River Ridge Commerce Center just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.

The 700,000-sq.-ft. campus will be the company’s 18th data center site in the U.S. and 22nd in the world. About 1,250 jobs will be supported at peak construction. The plant will be 100% supplied by renewable energy. 

IEDC awarded Meta a 35-year sales tax exemption that is renewable for up to 50 years if the company meets investment thresholds. The City of Jeffersonville and River Ridge Development Authority offered additional incentives. 

Herr says the deal works because “it is on an appropriately zoned megasite. I give a lot of credit to the River Ridge Commerce Center and Jeffersonville for holding onto that site for the right user. When you look at the location, community and workforce, they had a compelling case. It had speed to market and no site barriers. The attractiveness of our utility infrastructure was a key player. Duke Energy was an important partner in enabling this investment.”

 

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Meta Cold Storage Data Center operation

Photo courtesy of Meta Platforms Inc.

 

Herr calls it a breakthrough deal. “This is Meta’s first public announcement in Indiana,” he says. “We want to attract more data centers. We think Indiana can become the epicenter of the Silicon Heartland. When we adopted our new incentives program in 2019, that broke down barriers and put us in a Tier 1 position with financials for data centers.”

Meta and NHanced Semiconductors come on the heels of a record-setting year for economic development in the Hoosier State. Indiana notched $28.7 billion in capital investment from expanding companies in 2023, including $3.5 billion from Samsung SDI in New Carlisle, $3.2 billion from Stellantis in Kokomo, and $1.6 billion from Eli Lilly in Lebanon.

What Indiana has yet to garner is an investment like Intel’s $20 billion chip plant that is going up in New Albany, Ohio. Can Indiana compete at that level?

“Yes, I do think we can,” says Herr. “I feel like we have any tool at any scale to win a project like that. When you stack state incentives with our sites, our speed to market and our long-term partnerships, Indiana has a very clear ability to land a project like Intel.” 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.

  



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