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TSMC’s U.S. Chip Plant Sees Nearby City Mark Half A Million Dollars For New Airport

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The Taiwan Semiconductor Company's (TSMC) brand-new chipmaking facility in Arizona has led city authorities to consider building a new airport to support the flurry of companies expected to set up operations as a supply base. TSMC's new plant will become operational next year in Arizona's economic hub Phoenix. However, city authorities of nearby Peoria have decided to undertake a feasibility study to build a new airport as part of their budget plans for the next fiscal year.

Peoria Seeks To Expand Infrastructure To Capitalize on TSMC's New Chip Plant In Arizona

TSMC's new chip plant has created some buzz in America, with its ceremony late last year seeing a high-profile guest list that included President Biden. The plant is part of America's push to reduce dependence on a global semiconductor supply chain. TSMC, aided by U.S. subsidies, is slated to spend $40 billion to set up the new facility, which will produce semiconductors made on the firm's 4-nanometer chip process.

The firm is also busy staffing the plant with employees from both America and Taiwan - with the latter slated to help set up shop before taking off to their home country. The latest batch of Taiwanese engineers landed in Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport in March, and they were welcomed by the head of TSMC Arizona - a subsidiary responsible for managing the Pheonix facility.

Cultural differences have been a pain point for TSMC when setting up its new chipmaking facility, particularly since workers sent to Taiwan for training have felt that the country's working standards are tougher than those in America. These have led to negative Glassdoor reviews about the Arizona plant and friction between U.S. workers sent to Taiwan for training and their supervisors and peers.

The negative Glassdoor reviews, in particular, led to sharp comments from TSMC's chairman Dr. Mark Liu earlier this month. During an event, the executive stated that if employees are unwilling to be on duty, they should not join the chip industry as interest in chip fabrication rather than high salaries is what is required. His comments came under fire from users on the Taiwanese chat board PTT, where visitors sarcastically commented that since Americans were unwilling to follow TSMC's demanding working conditions, it was forced to recruit from Taiwan instead.

A screen grab of the review from Glassdoor in July 2022. Image: T S M C, North America, Glassdoor

While this saga rolls out in the backdrop, officials at Peoria are eager to see how well building a new airport would help the city's economy. In Peoria city's budget document for the next fiscal year, officials have earmarked half a million dollars to conduct a feasibility study for building an airport in the northern part of the city, as the TSMC plant is located close to the region.

They share in the budget document:

In order to maintain Peoria’s solid financial position, the City must continually be growing its revenue producers. Economic Development remains a key focus of the FY24 budget. Redeveloping downtown Peoria is a budget priority. The CIP includes $9.9 million for this effort in FY 2024. TSMC’s $40.0 billion investment in a semiconductor plant near the border of northern Peoria has created an exceptional opportunity for regional economic development. Businesses that support the TSMC plant will need to locate near an airport. By building an airport in northern Peoria, the city would be a hub for economic activity such as enterprise associated with airport business parks. To this end, the budget includes funding for an airport feasibility study and moves forward over $82.0 million in the CIP to connect Lake Pleasant Parkway to the airport.

The chip plant is already seeing multi-million dollar investments from Arizona City, which announced in 2020 that it would spend $205 million to improve infrastructure to aid TSMC's chip plant. Most of this investment will ensure that the wastewater generated by the Arizona plant is safely moved away from the site, and the spending will also create infrastructure to provide water to the chip plant. Water is a crucial resource for chip fabrication, and industry reports have also suggested that TSMC and rival firm Intel are engaged in heated competition for it.

Written by Ramish Zafar

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