Thursday, June 20, 2024

What the CHIPS Act means for Montana

by Lorraine Clarno
| August 14, 2022 12:00 AM

This week President Biden signed a transformative science bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, into law. The CHIPS Act will boost American microchip manufacturing, which for Montana means a lot of jobs, innovation, and opportunity.

Microchips, also known as semiconductors, are essential to nearly every sector of the economy as they are increasingly used in many everyday items including cars, televisions, phones, refrigerators, and computers as well as advanced technologies critical to our national security.

Unfortunately, demand for semiconductors has outstripped supply. This has created a global chip shortage and resulted in lost growth and jobs, in turn underscoring the need for increased domestic manufacturing capacity.

That’s why the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce joined the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, and hundreds of state and local chambers from across the country and sent a letter to Congress calling for passage of this critical funding bill.

Why America Needs The CHIPS Act

In 1990, the U.S. accounted for 37% of global semiconductor fabrication capacity while China had zero capacity. Fast forward thirty years, and the U.S. share has fallen to just 12% while the Chinese share of global manufacturing is projected to reach 24% by 2030, which would make it the world leader.

American companies are too reliant on foreign manufacturers and suppliers to secure necessary microchips, leaving us vulnerable and exposed. The CHIPS Act will boost our capacity to produce semiconductors here at home.

How Will It Help Rural America

The bipartisan CHIPS Act, supported by both of Montana’s U.S. Senators, invests in rural American by boosting high-tech production at home, strengthening supply chains, and increasing domestic research and development.

Specifically, the bill includes: $39 billion to build semiconductors, which will help bring a greater share of semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S.; $10 billion for Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs, including in rural areas like Montana; and $13 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for STEM workforce activities, including scholarships, fellowships, and traineeships to create workers in critical fields.

What It Means For Montana

Significant to Montana is the bill’s support for silane gas production, which is used to produce semiconductors. The world’s largest supplier of the gas, REC Silicon, has a factory on the outskirts of Butte. REC Silicon employs nearly 300 people at the facility and has been recognized by the White House as a potential candidate for domestic expansion of silane gas production.

We are proud to live in a state where both our U.S. Senators put America’s future ahead of partisan politics and voted in favor of the CHIPS Act. Montana’s businesses and families thank Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines for their leadership. We stand ready to support implementation of this critical funding bill that will create jobs, boost our economy, and put Montana on a stronger, more competitive path for years to come.

Lorraine Clarno is president of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.