‘Silicon Heartland’: We Have Visualized It

Ross DeVol, President and CEO


The what. Last week the heartland –and the country– welcomed some very exciting news. Intel Corp announced it would invest up to $100 billion to build potentially the world’s largest chip-making complex in Ohio. The project will bring an initial $20 billion investment; the largest in Ohio’s history on a 1,000-acre site that will create 3,000 permanent jobs on top of an estimated 7,000 construction jobs. 

Why is this significant? This announcement represents a major investment in the heartland. 3,000 long-term jobs on a project expected to grow to $100 billion is extremely meaningful in- and-of-itself. But what’s more, it signals a significant step in taking action to address a long-brewing problem: America reshoring its own industries to reduce reliance on the manufacturing of products in other countries. Americans felt this issue personally during the COVID-19 pandemic when the critical lack of medical equipment to treat and protect those affected by the virus brought into clear focus the over-reliance of the manufacturing sector on overseas production. We knew then that the offshoring issue extends beyond the pandemic concerns, reaching far larger and more permanent concerns over industrial supply chains, worker training and national security. 

Ohio’s semiconductor factory will work to address this exact problem, which is made ever-more important especially given the severe global shortage of semiconductors and the geopolitical reality this has created. According to the White House, the U.S. lost its edge in this production as our share of global semiconductor chips has fallen from 37% to just 12% over the last 30 years. These chips are essential for the production of smartphones, medical equipment, cars and household appliances, which has inflated the costs of many of these items and put the U.S. in tension with China as it has weaponized its markets to stifle support for human rights and also infringe on the security of these products once they get to American shores.  

Key context. Heartland Forward recently studied this complex issue and provided clear policy recommendations in its report, Reshoring America: Can the Heartland Lead the Way?. Our research was conducted with the support of JobsOhio, the very entity that has helped negotiate this deal into reality. In fact, the same week we released our report, we were encouraged to see President Biden’s Executive Order on America’s supply chains to ensure economic prosperity and national security. President & CEO of JobsOhio, J.P. Nauseef said, “The 2021 Heartland Forward reshoring study was perfectly timed. Less than a year later, the U.S. Heartland has landed a transformative investment in the semiconductor industry. Ohio has clearly established North American leadership for open and secure supply chains. Intel is betting its next generation of growth on the resourcefulness of Ohio and Ohioans to lead the company’s—and our state’s resurgence for generations to come.” 

It’s clear, the U.S. is waking up to the fact that this is a solvable problem and that decisive investments in this area will go a long way for America today and long into its future. As the only think and do tank dedicated to improving economic performance in America’s heartland, we could not be more thrilled to see this vision come to reality and to hear the phrase, Silicon Heartland being uttered by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and many others. 

Next steps. President Biden has urged Congress to pass legislation to strengthen research and development and manufacturing for supply chains to address global semiconductor shortages. The Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June and the Administration is working with the House and Senate to finalize this legislation. The bill includes full funding for the CHIPS for America Act, providing $52 billion that will support private-sector investments and America’s reshoring in key technological industries. We cannot wait to welcome Intel and future jobs like this to the heartland.