During the Boise City Council meeting on November 9th, Mayor Lauren McLean was not at her usual seat in the center of the dais. It was a rare absence for McLean since she took office in early 2020.
Instead, McLean was traveling – on official business for the city. City spokesperson Justin Corr told us she was on a business attraction mission – but due to a non-disclosure agreement, could not say more. McLean’s official calendar indicates she left town mid-day Monday, November 8th, and returned to Boise two days later.
While the city would not detail the trip’s purpose or who she was meeting with, there are indications that one of Idaho’s largest employers could be considering the Treasure Valley for a significant expansion.
This fall, Boise-based Micron announced it would spend up to $150 billion globally to beef up the supply chain for semiconductor chips. The company went public in the national business press pushing for tax breaks from the federal government to move some of its manufacturing back to the US.
Micron’s chief business officer Sumit Sadanatold Reutersonly about two percent of memory chips are made domestically.
“We certainly want to very seriously assess manufacturing in the US because the US ought to have more than 2% of memory manufacturing for the sake of national security and for the sake of supply chain resiliency,” Sadana told the news agency.
Micron used to produce dynamic random access memory chips in Boise. But in recent decades, it has primarily moved production off-shore, with the Boise plant hosting research and development functions as well as back-office and other departments.
BoiseDev asked a Micron Technology spokesperson if it was considering Boise for any expansion, without specifying the type. The spokesperson brought up a potential future fabrication plan – or fab – unprompted.
“With regards to the announcement we made last month about our intent to invest more than $150B globally over the next decade in leading-edge memory manufacturing and R&D, Micron is engaging in discussions with multiple states and will provide updates as the process continues and at the appropriate time,” the spokesperson wrote. “There are multiple factors that inform our decision to invest billions of dollars to construct and operate a fab.”
BoiseDev asked Corr if the city was working to attract a Micron expansion, and he said the city could not comment.
We also asked Idaho Department of Commerce Marketing and Innovation Administrator Matt Borud if the state is involved with any project to land a Micron expansion.
“We can’t confirm or deny whether a business is considering pursuing any projects in Idaho unless and until the business has publicly announced its intentions,” Borud wrote.
Idaho Governor Brad Little’s spokesperson Marissa Morrison did not return a request for comment by the deadline for this story.
Federal legislation could incent domestic expansion
Micron has lobbied for passage of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which lawmakers say would infuse $52 billion to ease a nationwide chip shortage. The measure passed the US Senate last spring, but is stalled in the house. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appealed to Micron to consider expansion in his home state of New York, but the chipmaker made no commitment, according to the Albany Times-Union.
Another piece of legislation, the Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors or FABS Act would incentivize the production of semiconductor chips in the US with a 25% investment tax credit. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill.
“Helping American semiconductor manufacturers strengthen their supply chains to better protect critical technologies is a longstanding bipartisan effort,” Crapo said in June. “Senators Cornyn and Warner have been strong leaders in the fight to stimulate domestic advanced chip manufacturing, and their partnership is instrumental in this effort. Leveraging federal government incentives to bolster American companies and bring chip and semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States is critical. This tax incentive is a great step toward our goal of fortifying our supply chains, strengthening national security, and boosting economic competitiveness.”
Micron’s built-in Boise incentive
Micron would have a built-in incentive to expand in Boise – albeit one that came about in part accidentally. As BoiseDev reported last fall, the Idaho Legislature passed a law designed to attract a new facility by a French nuclear energy company. While the hoped-for plant never showed up, the law was written in a general way to say if any company spent at least $1 billion in expansion in the Gem State within seven years of the law’s passage, the state would forever cap the company’s taxable property value at $400 million.
This resulted in an inadvertent tax break for Micron, which continues to apply with additional expansion, meaning the company would not pay any additional property tax on the value of improvements to its Boise plant.
The City of Trees was in the running for a significant fab expansion once before. In the 1990s, Micron considered Boise for a new fab the company ultimately decided to build in Lehi, Utah. Micron sold it earlier this year to Texas Instruments.
Micron owns significant tracts of land next to its Boise facility that it could use for expansion. As BoiseDev reported in 2019, it is one of two major landowners on the so-called Columbia Bench (along with the JR Simplot Co.) in the area east of Interstate 84 and south of Columbia Rd.
Micron has continued to make investments in upgrades to the campus in recent years, including as much as $100 million in upgrades in progress, as BoiseDev reported.
It’s unclear when additional information on the project Boise is working on will be available. BoiseDev will continue to report on the story as we learn more.