JOHNSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — When President Joe Biden applauded a decision by Intel Corp. to build a $20 billion semiconductor operation on “1,000 empty acres of land” in Ohio, it didn't sit well with Tressie Corsi.
The 85-year-old woman has lived on 7 acres of that land since she and her late husband, Paul, built a house there 50 years ago. They raised four children there and welcomed multiple generations of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including some who lived right next door.
“You can see it’s not vacant land,” Corsi said on a recent warm summer day as she sat on her porch.
Corsi and more than 50 other homeowners on the Intel site aren't being forcibly removed. Two holding companies working on behalf of Intel have spent millions on offers to homeowners, often well-above market rates. The companies paid Corsi just over $1 million, and Intel is putting her up in a house rent-free before she moves to her new home.
But money was never the issue, Corsi said.
“It was the happiness that we had," she said. “That’s what really hurts.”
Intel announced the Ohio development in January as part of the company's efforts to alleviate a global shortage of chips powering everything from phones to cars to home appliances. It’s the largest economic development investment in Ohio history.
“Silicon Heartland — a new epicenter of leading-edge tech!” Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger tweeted about the announcement. An Ohio clothing company quickly followed suit with T-shirts declaring Ohio “The Silicon Heartland” with computers superimposed onto the state seal.
Construction of two factories, or fabs, is expected to begin this year, with production coming online at the end of 2025. Total investment could top $100 billion over the decade, with six additional factories down the road. The project is expected to create 3,000 company jobs with an average salary of $135,000 and 7,000 construction jobs. Dozens of Intel suppliers will provide more jobs.
Backers promote both the project's economic development potential and its national security benefits. The U.S. share of the worldwide chip manufacturing market has declined from 37% in 1990 to 12% today, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, and shortages have become a potential risk.
Biden has pushed for the passage of the federal CHIPS for America Act, currently stalled in Congress, that would provide billions for semiconductor research and production. The “scope and pace of our expansion in Ohio will depend heavily on funding from the CHIPS Act,” Intel spokesperson Linda Qian said, though there’s no indication the project won’t go forward.
To win the project, Ohio offered Intel roughly $2 billion in incentives, including a 30-year tax break. Intel has outlined $150 million in educational funding aimed at growing the semiconductor industry regionally and nationally.
“If you travel 20 miles east of Columbus, Ohio, you’ll find 1,000 empty acres of land,” Biden said during March's State of the Union speech. "It won’t look like much. But if you stop and look closely, you’ll see a field of dreams.”
At first blush, the plant's future location does feel far from anything, surrounded by farms, fields and houses set on multi-acre plots. In fact, it's now part of the booming city of New Albany — a tony land of good schools and big houses where white fences line streets for miles. The city already boasts a large business park where 19,000 people work, as well as Amazon, Facebook and Google data centers.
New Albany annexed the Intel property, but the bigger impact has been on people in nearby Johnstown, current population 5,200. And few families have been as deeply affected as Corsi and her relatives.