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Posted: December 15, 2007
AMD Pledges Educational Help
(Nanowerk News) Officials from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. say that when the company formally commits to build a $3.2 billion computer chip factory in Saratoga County, it plans to get heavily involved with the community, especially with education.
That's what happened when it opened facilities in places like Austin, Texas and Dresden, Germany over the years.
"It will be as soon as we go ahead with the project," said Ward Tisdale, AMD's director of global community affairs. "As soon as we get to that point, we'll be very proactive."
Tisdale and other AMD executives were at the Queensbury Hotel Friday morning participating in a talk about education sponsored by the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce and the Adirondack Business & School Partnership.
It was part of three days of meetings they had in the Capital Region updating business and political leaders on the multi-billion dollar project, planned for the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta.
Tisdale and Allyson Peerman, AMD's vice president of public affairs, both said that the company's interest in supporting math and science education in the communities where it has facilities is largely self-serving. That's because the company, which would initially employ 1,200 people at Luther Forest, wants to have a highly educated work force.
"Human talent is the single most important ingredient in our business," Peerman said. "We rely on finding the best and the brightest. We need to have a constant flow of diverse ideas. We need a well-oiled pipeline of talent."
Peerman said that when AMD still operated computer chip factories, or fabs, in Austin in the 1990s when the city's semiconductor manufacturing sector was booming, the company was having difficulty finding qualified workers. The company has since sold off its Austin fabs and now operates just two in Dresden.
"We were recruiting nationally to bring in people for those jobs," Peerman said. "But the cost was very high."
In order to solve that recruitment problem, AMD partnered with Austin Community College to develop a semiconductor manufacturing program, and it also stepped up efforts to promote advanced high-school courses.
"Community colleges are going to be very crucial to what we do," she said.
The good news is that Hudson Valley Community College in Troy has already started its own semiconductor manufacturing program, and it has plans to build a training facility at Luther Forest at a small business park owned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. As part of their trip to the region, AMD officials toured that parcel, known as the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park.
"In many ways you're way ahead," Peerman told the crowd.
Peerman and Tisdale said that AMD would also get involved with kindergarten through high school education, and it is already doing research at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and its $4.3 billion Albany NanoTech complex.
Despite the promises of helping the region develop its educational system, AMD is still a long way away from ever breaking ground on the site. The company, which lost $1.6 billion through the first nine months of the year, has until July 2009 to decide whether to go ahead with the project and still be eligible for $1.2 billion in financial incentives from the state of New York.
AMD spokesman Travis Bullard, who also made the trip to the area, said Friday that AMD is planning up to three fabs that would consist of a total of 1.2 million square feet of space.
The first fab, the only one that AMD has talked about building so far, would have a 180,000 square-foot clean room, which is more than five times larger than the clean room at Albany NanoTech.
Bullard said space exists on a 200-acre parcel of land that AMD would buy and develop at Luther Forest to build two additional fabs, but if that occurred it would happen over a 10- to 15-year period.
"We'll take it one step at a time," Bullard said. "But we want to make sure we have the room we need should we expand."