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When the Chips Are Down: Pat Mahomes and the Midwest's Crucial Role in the U.S. Semiconductor Comeback

By Carter Hitchcock, Business Solutions Project Manager


Football is America’s sport, and right now, Patrick Mahomes is America’s quarterback. On Super Bowl Sunday, Mahomes celebrated his third victory within the past five seasons. Amidst ongoing doubt, he continues to silence critics and count Lombardi trophies.

While unquestionably impressive, he’s still four trophies short of Tom Brady’s seven. Echoing the words of Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell after a crushing NFC championship loss, ‘‘It’s gonna be twice as hard to get back to this point next year,’’ Mahomes and the Chiefs face a challenging road ahead in a competitive NFL landscape. Nevertheless, I still wouldn’t bet against them.

In the global semiconductor or microelectronics race, the United States finds itself in a comparable position. We’ve shown resilience and achieved notable successes, but we continue to grapple with aggressive global competition. Currently, we rank fifth behind China (4), Japan (3), South Korea (2), and Taiwan (1) in semiconductor manufacturing. And if there’s one thing we know about the United States, if we’re not first, we’re last.

Semiconductors are silicon or germanium chips that act as the brains behind our everyday devices. They decide when and how much electricity gets through our smartphones, televisions, cars, computers, and much more.

Think of them as the “quarterback” of a device. Just as Mahomes controls the flow of a game, a semiconductor controls the flow of electricity in a device. Without these chips, the everyday technologies we rely on would undoubtedly revert to a less sophisticated era, with negative implications for so much of our everyday lives, and, importantly, our national security.

Domestic production of trusted microelectronics (free of any potential malware) is integral to the advancement of the U.S. defense sector. Our missiles and drones rely on trusted microelectronics for navigation. In radar and surveillance systems, these chips enable the tracking and detection of enemy targets.

Moreover, in the realm considered by many as the future of warfare, electronic warfare requires the use of semiconductors for jamming and intercepting enemy communications. What some call a "Tech Cold War", our position in the global chip manufacturing race is among the most pressing issues for our national security. Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the U.S. has been in a close race with China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. However, decades of outsourcing semiconductor production to non-U.S. fabrication plants for cost reduction has placed the U.S. at a disadvantage.

To combat this, the United States passed the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022. It aimed to augment domestic chip production and R&D, with $50 billion set to be allocated over five years. Private U.S. companies have since announced $235 billion in investments in semiconductors and electronics. The effects of this initiative are already visible in recent manufacturing advancements across the Midwest.

Expected to open in 2025, Intel announced plans to invest $20 billion to build two leading-edge chip factories in Licking County, Ohio. The investment is expected to grow to as much as $100 billion at full buildout. Intel also pledged an additional $100 million towards partnerships with educational institutions to bolster its local recruitment pipeline.

In November of 2022, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, alongside local officials and business executives broke ground on WestGate One, a new $84 million microelectronics campus in Odon, Indiana. Everspin Technologies, Trusted Semiconductor Solutions, NHanced Semiconductors, and Reliable Microsystems have agreed to establish a presence on this campus.

NHanced Semiconductors recently held a ribbon-cutting on a $236 million advanced semiconductor packaging facility at WestGate One, projected to generate 413 jobs by the end of 2028 and propel the development of Midwest semiconductor production. When complete, WestGate One will stand as a testament to the United States’ numerous triumphs in the global chip race.

In September of 2023, a total of $238 million was allocated to establish eight microelectronics commons hubs across the nation, two of which are in the Midwest (Indiana and Ohio). The United States is actively working to reclaim a leading position in the global semiconductor sector, with the Midwest emerging as a pivotal contributor.

Despite our recent success in domestic chip production, the United States is still fighting to achieve a global competitive edge. Going forward, the Midwest will be a driving force behind the United States semiconductor comeback.

When the chips are down, every American should remember: never bet against Brady, never bet against Mahomes, and most importantly, when it comes to national security, never bet against the United States of America.


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