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You Asked: What we know (and don’t) about Micron’s $15 billion expansion: incentives, housing, transit, water

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After nearly a year of reporting, Micron Technology announced earlier this month its intent to make the most significant private investment in Idaho and open a new semiconductor fab with 2,000 new jobs. 

Local and state officials lauded the move, calling attention to the highly skilled jobs and wages the company will bring with its expansion and the boost to a range of other industries the project will bring. The City of Boise also lauded the company for its goals of environmental sustainability and the potential for partnership in its work to adapt to climate change. 

But, many questions remain. 

What kind of incentive package did Micron get? Will they bring anything to the table to address the Treasure Valley’s ongoing housing crisis? Where will the workers come from, and how will they get to Southeast Boise for their shifts? And where will the new facility get the water it needs to operate?

Many of these questions are unanswered more than two weeks after the announcement, but BoiseDev worked to find as many early details as possible. And we’ll continue to press for more answers.

State: Exact incentive package still unknown 

Micron Boise expansion
Rendering of a proposed fabrication plant at Micron Tech. in Boise. Via Micron

The Idaho Department of Commerce, the state’s economic development arm, says it doesn’t have the final total of what incentives Micron will receive in exchange for choosing to build the fab in Boise. 

Matt Borud told BoiseDev that the State of Idaho doesn’t pay out cash incentives to companies to attract them to do business here. Instead, the state pays out its incentives “post-performance” after a company has paid up front to build infrastructure, create jobs, and has an impact on the economy to ensure promises are met. 

“In terms of state incentives toward Micron’s announced investment, we do not have exact incentive data to share at this time because the necessary project details are still being determined,” Borud wrote in an email. “As you heard at the groundbreaking… this is a project that will last over the next decade. As these project details are finalized, we will have more exact information on state incentive awards.”

He said Micron would likely qualify for the Idaho Semiconductors for America Act, which was contingent on the passage of the federal CHIPS and Science Act. The federal legislation awarded a raft of incentives to shore up domestic semiconductor manufacturing over the next decade. The Idaho incentive would provide semiconductor companies with sales and use tax exemptions to purchase construction materials to build a fab. 

When the bill passed the legislature, the Department of Commerce provided legislators with a table with three possible projects, one small, one medium, and one large, ranging from $12 million to a $1.8 billion investment. Micron’s planned fab will top this at $15 billion, meaning the incentive will likely be larger than the estimated $18 million tax break for the large example project provided to the legislature. 

Micron Boise
Micron Technology’s headquarters in Boise, Idaho. Photo: Glen Hush/Shutterstock

Borud said Micron is also eligible for a Tax Reimbursement Incentive, which gives companies that create more than 50 full-time jobs in an urban area a 30% tax credit on income, payroll, and sales taxes for up to 15 years. 

City incentives?

Micron will also get its building permit application fees “right-sized” at the City of Boise, according to Mayor Lauren McLean. She said the city’s permits are set up to be 1% of investment on a project, which would work out to a $150-million fee. She said that system is not designed for a $15 billion investment.

BoiseDev research shows the total building permit value for the entire city totaled $8.13 billion from 2012 to 2021. The Micron project alone would be nearly twice that.

The city also agreed to scale up its permitting and public works staff to ensure the complex project can go through an expedited review process. She said there might be other waivers and rebates, but Boise City Council will have to approve them all individually, and more details will be available later as the project takes shape. 

On top of these incentives, Micron also enjoys a property tax cap due to 2008 legislation passed in the hopes of attracting a nuclear company to Idaho over a decade ago. For instance, if you add a room to your home, you would pay additional property tax on the value of that improvement. Micron will not pay additional property tax.

BoiseDev also asked Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra what support the company is getting from the city and state. While he also didn’t offer specifics, he echoed DeBoer, McLean, and Borud.

“Micron has been here for more than four decades, and we have strong relationships with the state as well as the city of Boise,” Mehrotra said. “The Idaho Semiconductor for America Act enables certain tax incentives that are important. Of course, the support related to roads and infrastructure for water treatment and certainly the legislative support – we are very thankful. “This is a collaboration with the state, with the city, and of course, Micron.”

Why Boise?

Micron says incentives weren’t the X factor that led to the final decision. 

Scott DeBoer, a Micron executive vice president, told BoiseDev it was the ability to grow its manufacturing operation in the same place where much of its research happens, creating a synergy between the production line and product development. 

“One (reason to expand in Idaho) is clearly the infrastructure we have in Boise now and the strategic importance of having research and development and manufacturing co-located in the same site,” he said. “That’s the single biggest reason operationally for Micron is because of that co-location and the desire to have that going forward.”

DeBoer said in the interview that Micron still has more investments to announce at an undetermined location. 

McLean said a lot went into the city’s negotiations with the tech giant as well. She said they were encouraged by Micron’s interest in the city’s plans to add affordable housing and more units in general, invest in transit, and the city’s focus on environmental sustainability. She specifically nodded to Micron’s clean energy goals, which she said could help Boise meet its carbon-neutral targets.

“There’s a lot of values we share,” she said. “…They wanted to hear from me what our housing programs and plans are, and… what we plan to do. On climate, our city has goals of clean electricity, and some of that means we need to source electricity. We see their partnership as a way to ensure we can secure the energy we need and meet the goals we have.”

Housing, transit investments possible

Micron says they are looking to help mitigate the impacts on two of the Treasure Valley’s two most pressing problems, but details still haven’t been released. 

DeBoer said the company is looking at creating some housing for its employees specifically for when they visit the site from out-of-state or when they first locate to Idaho. He said Micron is also looking at how to invest in affordable housing units for the community in Southeast Boise. He gave few details but said adding units is part of their consideration for the expansion. 

“The market has changed a little bit in the past few months too, but it will go in both directions, I’m sure,” he said, nodding to the cooling housing market. “It’s a decades-long project, so it’s not just the housing situation at this moment that we’re trying to think through. It’s how does this go in the future and how do we position through this next couple of decades where this whole program is going to roll out.”

He also gave few details on transportation but said the company is considering ways to help employees, particularly those who live in western Canyon County and further out from the core of Boise, to get to the site “without adding to congestion.” It’s unknown what form that could take or what investment could come with it. DeBoer also said Micron would also scale up its planned childcare center for Micron employees to accommodate the new fab. 

Micron owns significant land holdings near its Boise campus.

Water plays a key role

Lander Street Boise
The Lander Street Wastewater Facility in Boise. Courtesy City of Boise

Semiconductor manufacturing is a water-intensive process, and in a high desert like Boise, it’s an important factor in planning a fab of this magnitude. 

Neither Micron nor McLean could give an exact figure of how many gallons of water per day the new fab would use, but each shed some light on the company’s plans for water recycling on the site. The company aims to create a 100% water reuse and recycling system, where water used to manufacture semiconductors is cleaned and returned to the facility to be used again and again to reduce the impact on the aquifer. 

A key piece of this plan is Micron’s commitment to investing funds in a new third water renewal plant in the industrial area of Southeast Boise. McLean said a water renewal facility in this area has been in the works for years, long before Micron even signaled they would be interested in expanding manufacturing in Boise. 

But now that Micron is coming, she said the company agreed to contribute “significantly” toward the wastewater plant to bring it online five years earlier than planned. The city’s Water Renewal Utility Plan and water bond that passed overwhelmingly in 2021, with tens of thousands of dollars of Micron support through a PAC, was only enough funds to cover the cost of building a wastewater renewal plant without the added volume from Micron’s fab. This means Boise’s water bond dollars or low-interest loans for the project voters approved last year will not be used to subsidize Micron’s operations.

And then after the plant is built, McLean said the city hopes to use the water recycling technology it perfected working with Micron to attract other industrial manufacturers to the city and create more jobs. 

“We are building the infrastructure that clean companies of the future will need so they too can build in Boise,” she said. 

BoiseDev’s Don Day contributed reporting.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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