The longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate said Monday the nation needs to invest in semiconductor manufacturing, calling those factories and their output key to the operations of the economy and security.
GlobalFoundries, a major Vermont employer and manufacturer of semiconductors, then said such investments would help it expand and update its U.S. plants.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, added that ensuring a strong domestic manufacturing sector for microchips could help keep the U.S. from falling behind other countries.
“We have to have something that’s designed for the next generation of Americans,” Leahy said of the manufacturing of high-tech components he called critical to the nation’s operations and infrastructure.
In Burlington, car dealer Steve Kelson has felt the impact of a backlog in microchip manufacturing.
“It’s been a wild ride for the last few months,” Kelson said of the often-difficult time he’s had getting the full range of vehicles—and in the colors and trims he wants—to stock at six Vermont dealerships.
Kelson’s challenges stem from how manufacturers have had to downshift production because the microchips that are the brains of today’s vehicles are in short supply. Many chipmakers have been slammed with orders from other customers looking for components—say, for cell phones or laptops.
Leahy is fully behind a plan now working its way through Washington that would direct tens of billions of dollars to domestic chip manufacturing.
Some critics have wondered why taxpayer money should flow to profitable plants. Leahy indicated he expects a robust debate in the near future on spending proposals.
However, Leahy insists supporting the resilience of the chip sector is vital to the nation’s infrastructure, to jobs, and even to national security. He said the U.S. needs to be able to have trust in technology, to stay protected against hacking.
“We have to continue to produce them here in the United States,” Leahy said at a press conference Monday, referring to the need for microchips.
Pradip Singh leads the Vermont operations of GlobalFoundries, a major semiconductor maker whose products serve the U.S. Department of Defense and end up in devices most American consumers likely use every day.
“What this infusion would do—it’s an investment,” Singh said. “It super-charges us.”
Singh told NECN and NBC10 Boston that the pandemic has really exposed the fragility of supply chains at a time technology has never been more important. He explained a federal infusion would spark new expansions, equipment upgrades, and hiring for the company.
“For some countries, especially in Asia, they’ve noticed this is a really important part of their infrastructure, and they’ve invested heavily over the years,” Singh said. “I think we’ve been left behind.”
Steve Kelson, who has been selling new cars before they even arrive in the state, said he is glad for the high-level focus on chipmaking—hoping it’ll help pave a smoother road ahead for his future inventory.
“Having a selection is a good thing for consumers,” Kelson said.
Leahy told reporters a top priority of his in the days and weeks ahead will be bipartisan negotiations on the president’s infrastructure proposals.