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GlobalFoundries marks 10th anniversary in Saratoga County

GlobalFoundries marks 10th anniversary in Saratoga County

$15 billion facility employs more than 3,000, currently has 200 vacancies
GlobalFoundries marks 10th anniversary in Saratoga County
Ron Sampson, senior VP and general manager for GlobalFoundries US Fab Operations, speaks.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

MALTA — GlobalFoundries on Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the start of construction of Fab 8, its $15 billion computer chip factory where more than 3,000 people now work.

There were just 17 employees on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony July 24, 2009, GlobalFoundries’ head of human resources noted. Hundreds swarmed the parking lot in commemorative T-shirts for Wednesday’s celebration.

One speaker after another stated that more anniversaries will be celebrated — Fab 8’s products are in demand as critical components of everyday 21st century life. 

GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield, who previously was general manager of Fab 8, thanked all who made the day possible, company leaders, public officials and particularly employees.

“By any standard of measure, the original investment the state of New York made to create this entity and the economic return they wanted to get from it — we broke records in everything we did,” he said.

“To be a part of this has been an incredible life event, professional event, for me.”

Ten years later, Caulfield said, “One thing remains the same: Semiconductors are critical at the heart of everything mankind and society does.”

Caulfield said GlobalFoundries is the second-largest chip foundry operator by sales volume and one of only five in the world, giving it a critical role in the global economy. 

Worldwide, the $65 billion-a-year foundry industry supplies the $600 billion semiconductor industry, which supplies the $2 trillion electronics industry.

Some other notable numbers:

  • Total investment in Fab 8 is approximately $15 billion; that spending peaked at $4 million a day in 2014-2015.
  • As of June 30, Fab 8 had 3,021 full-time employees and about 250 contingent employees; statewide, GlobalFoundries had 4,393 employees.
  • Average full-time salary at Fab 8 was $97,619 in 2018; total payroll was approximately $379 million.
  • The Fab 8 complex totals 2.9 million square feet; 450,000 of that is the sterile space used for production.
  • Natives of 51 countries work at Fab 8, but the biggest contingent — 65% — is from New York state.
  • Two-thirds of the Fab 8 workforce resides in Saratoga County.
  • Since 2011, GlobalFoundries has paid more than $102 million in municipal and school taxes, and has provided more than $5 million in additional money to community organizations in Malta and Stillwater, the towns whose border the Luther Forest Technology Campus straddles.
  • Fab 8 draws 120 megawatts of electricity, burns nearly a half-million cubic feet of natural gas per hour, and consumes about 4 million gallons of water per day.

The GlobalFoundries story in Saratoga County stretches back much further than 10 years. The factory originally was conceived by Advanced Micro Devices and courted at length by the Pataki and Spitzer administrations. AMD got out of the chip foundry business shortly before the groundbreaking in 2009, spinning off its manufacturing arm into GlobalFoundries, a new entity owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.

A state aid package of $1.37 billion in subsidies plus millions more in tax breaks and infrastructure upgrades was granted and a massive investment in the Saratoga County water system was made for what was to be a $4.2 billion facility employing 1,465 people. 

The investment to date is more than triple the original projection and the workforce is more than double. GlobalFoundries is now a critical part of the academic-manufacturing-research semiconductor presence in the Tech Valley region.

There have been a handful of workforce reductions along with the growth. Most were small but one — in August 2018 — totaled 424 employees in Malta and 31 more at an Albany research center.

These cuts came shortly after GlobalFoundries decided to stop research and development of 7-nanometer chips, the next generation of smaller, faster semiconductors.

But even as it was cutting some jobs it was trying to fill others. It continues to have vacancies — about 200 as of Wednesday — and this year announced a paid apprenticeship program at Fab 8.

After the ceremony, Caulfield told reporters that Fab 8 is in a strong position, with the major investment in growth done for now and a steady demand for its products.

“We’ve stabilized our business model, we’re profitable and we have a healthy free cash flow generation, which positions us for our next ten years,” he said.

“We are uniquely positioned to be a major player in the 5G [cellphone technology] rollout, both in handsets and infrastructure … as well as machine learning, artificial intelligence.”

GlobalFoundries has secured approval to build a second factory in Luther Forest but not committed to its construction. Caulfield said it isn’t currently needed because there is space within the company's existing foundries for more production since the company dropped its 7-nanometer initiative.

“When it’s the right time and the right place, we don’t rule anything out. But there’s no immediate plans right now to [build a second chip fab in Saratoga County] when we have plenty of floor space we can fill around the world.”

Caulfield said Fab 8 continues to need new employees of all stripes, from researchers with PhDs to production workers with associate’s degrees. Researchers are often recruited from great distances, but most production workers come from within a couple hundred miles.

“The best thing for us to do in entry-level positions is to create that opportunity for education locally,” Caulfield said. This includes college partnerships, the apprenticeship program, tuition reimbursement and in-service training. Of the roughly 34 million employee-hours worked per year at Fab 8, he noted, 1.5 million are devoted to education and training.

“To invest in our employee base is a critical part of our business,” Caulfield said.

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