Schumer: Upstate poised to become high tech center


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ALBANY — Upstate New York stands to be a major beneficiary of federal legislation that would pump $52 billion into fostering the growth of the domestic semiconductor chip fabrication industry, US Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, said Thursday.

Some 80 semiconductor companies already have a presence in New York, with more than 34,000 employees collectively, Schumer said.

But the job total would be greatly magnified by way of efforts aimed at putting the upstate region in competition with California’s Silicon Valley as a high tech hub, the senator added.

Schumer argued that the nation’s semiconductor industry is crucial to its future and security, with the upstate region being an ideal location for such investment.

“China is trying to dominate this industry,” Schumer told reporters in a Zoom conference call. “We can’t let them for our national security.”

He predicted an increase in the production of semiconductor chips at domestic production facilities will help tame inflation and curb supply chain headaches that have dogged many industries, including computer and electric battery manufacturing.

“There’s such a shortage that there is a backlog, and then the price goes way up,” Schumer said in response to a CNHI query. “We produce enough chips, the price will go way back down. It will make cars, it will make appliances, it will make batteries and everything else cheaper.”

There is even a connection between the chip shortage and escalating grocery prices, with trucking companies impacted by constraints in the supply chain for microchips, increasing overhead costs for those companies and translating into increases in the price of food products, Schumer said.

Schumer said he envisions the Western New York region specifically will become one of the nation’s 10 tech hubs that would evolve from the bipartisan measure to provide new incentives for the chip industry to expand.

Other regions he mentioned include the Mohawk Valley, Central New York, the Capital Region, and the Hudson Valley, with the SUNY Oneonta campus, Binghamton University, Cornell University, the University at Buffalo all deriving benefits from the relationships that would be encouraged with the tech industry, Schumer said.

“The bottom line is every region in upstate New York will have dramatic benefits they haven’t seen in years, in terms of jobs, if this bill passes, and it’s going to pass,” Schumer said.

The link between the technology race and national security has become such a prominent issue in federal government circles that earlier this month Schumer scheduled an all-senators classified briefing on the need for making the nation a leader in global innovation.

The Biden administration has also signaled that new support for the semiconductor industry is vital to deal with inflation and supply chain constraints.

The latest legislation has been described as a scaled down version of an earlier, broader measure that had met with objections from some key Republicans.

Ingredients in the bill include $10 billion to be channeled to the development of regional technology hubs, a 25% tax credit for the manufacture of semiconductors and the equipment used to fabricate them, some $500 million for a secure communications program, $200 million for training employees. and more than $1 billion for wireless innovations.

Just 12% of chips are now manufactured domestically, compared to 37% in the 1990s, according to Schumer’s office. Companies based in East Asia are responsible for 75% of global semiconductor production.

Two weeks ago, Schumer faced intense pressure from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who argued the Senate majority leader had jeopardized the legislation by using it to go on a “partisan spending spree.” Negotiations continued, and the revamped bill cleared a procedural step Tuesday night, in a 64-34 vote.


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