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Mission Possible: Intel's investment and the impact on Northeast Ohio

This tranformational event might not have happened, if not for a local automaker.

LORAIN, Ohio — "Intel has chosen Ohio."

The announcement from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine back in January, unveiled plans for microchip giant Intel to build two new $20 billion factories in the Columbus area

It's a record-breaking investment in Ohio that actually started with a simple e-mail. 

"I'm writing this to share with you the reasons Lorain, Ohio, needs to be considered as the ideal place to manufacture semiconductor chips," the e-mail read. 

The author: Lorain City Councilwoman Mary Springowski, who had visions of a company revitalizing an industrial park on the banks of the Black River. Springowski has seen the impact of the chip shortage firsthand. She is an autoworker at Ford in Brook Park.

She crafted her e-mail to a list of manufacturers from the engine plant's factory floor. 

Intel wrote back.

"And I thought this would be a good place, we had a couple hundred acres," Springowski said of the land she thought would be a good fit. 

But, it turns out, she underestimated.

"I didn't know they needed 1,000 to 1,500 acres. That's a lot of land."

Given a three-day deadline to find a new site, Springowski brought in Team NEO and Jobs Ohio.

"We said, 'We don't think we have it. It's not that we can't have it but not in three days.' And we had a choice. We could continue to look or we could take advantage of the fact that Columbus actually thought they had it,” said Bill Koehler, CEO of Team NEO.

Though New Albany is the site chosen by Intel, Northeast Ohio still has plenty to gain.

“What can we do to identify suppliers already here, or maybe customers of Intel down the road so we can make sure they have the support they need to make additional investment here?” Koehler said.

That additional investment could happen soon. Intel is pledging $50 million into higher education programs here in Ohio to build the needed workforce.
Among those in line to benefit: Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems -- or "MEMS" -- at Lorain County Community College.

"I never thought in my lifetime I would be able to say, working in Ohio, that Intel would be hiring some of our students. I think that is a strong possibility we are training student how to work in a clean room that is in arm's reach of their facilities,” said Johnny Vanderford, of MEMS at LCCC.

From manufacturing chips to building circuit boards, students learn while employed by one of the program's 80 partners.

"I like what I learn in the classroom as it directly applies to the jobs that I'm getting, the internships,” said Ally Marszal, a student in the MEMS program. "You have got the equipment you are learning to use in class, at the same time going to work and using the same equipment we are using to in class, so it's kind of a beautiful merger right there," said Matthew Douglass another MEMS student.

Johnny Vanderford says he posts 10 to 15 jobs weekly for students. Thanks to Intel, the demand will only increase.

"We want to train people up to work for companies within our area, and now that Intel is in our area we want to train folks to work with them, too," Vanderford said.

Leveraging Ohio's educational institutions to build the workforce is just one benefit of Intel's investments. 

"And instead of being a rust belt, we are an opportunity belt," Springowski said.


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