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‘Azalea’ could bloom in New York

Report: State in running for secret high-tech project

Friday, March 1, 2013
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— New York state is still in the running for a mysterious high-tech manufacturing project dubbed “Project Azalea,” but you have to read the West Coast press to find out.

The director of Oregon’s economic development agency, Business Oregon, told a legislative committee in that state last week that Oregon and New York are competing for the multibillion-dollar project.

“We’re competing with the state of New York. They’re going to put tens of millions … on the table. What we put out there will be dwarfed by what New York’s able to do. But they could still pick us,” Business Oregon Director Tim McCabe said, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

McCabe’s comments are the most recent development in a rumor-dominated saga that began last fall, with the company behind Project Azalea remaining unidentified. Those in the know can’t talk, having signed non-disclosure agreements; such site selection activity is often shrouded in secrecy.

It’s clear, though, that there’s a nationwide search under way on behalf of the project, which would employ at least 1,000 people. Speculation about who Azalea is has centered on Apple, which may be looking to return manufacturing now done in Asia to the United States, and on possible expansion plans by major semiconductor manufacturers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., Samsung or Intel.

There were also rumors last November that the mystery client was GlobalFoundries — but since then, GlobalFoundries has made clear it won’t be going anywhere; it has filed plans to locate its next manufacturing facility at its Fab 8 site in Saratoga County.

New York state has a history of offering rich incentives if the corporate fish looks big enough. An unprecedented $1.4 billion state incentive package helped New York land GlobalFoundries, where 2,000 people now work.

That was in 2006, when Gov. George Pataki negotiated the package of cash and tax incentives with Advanced Micro Devices. AMD later sold its manufacturing operations to the Abu Dhabi investors who established GlobalFoundries.

It’s known that representatives of Empire State Development last fall showed project representatives around the Luther Forest Technology Campus, where GlobalFoundries is located. They also toured the state’s planned high-tech center at SUNY Institute of Technology, just outside Utica.

Representatives of Empire State Development did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Even as far away as Utica, a Project Azalea site would add to the high-tech business cluster developing in upstate New York, centered on the cutting-edge research facilities at the College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering in Albany. There, the state is putting $400 million into a $4.4 billion project that is developing next-generation, 450-mm silicon wafers and the associated manufacturing equipment. TSMC, Intel, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and IBM are the private partners putting up the rest of the money.

But Oregon also has claim to the necessary expertise to serve an international chipmaker. It has a high-tech manufacturing cluster and an experienced workforce. An area known as “Silicon Forest” has sprung up west of Portland since Intel first located a semiconductor plant there about 20 years ago, and a TSMC subsidiary has a plant in nearby southwestern Washington state.

Some published reports say California and Texas are also in the running for Project Azalea.

 
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