The biggest economic development initiative Ohio has ever undertaken will face significant employment challenges.
JOHNSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Finding 7,000 construction employees in an industry that is currently thriving while also facing a national shortage of workers in the trades presents a significant employment problem for Ohio's largest-ever economic development project.
The $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility close to the state capital is here; Intel unveiled it earlier this year. The project will employ 3,000 workers with an average pay of roughly $135,000 when the two fabs, or factories, operate in 2025.
The 1,000-acre property must first be leveled and the semiconductor plants constructed before that can happen.
According to Michael Engbert, an official of the Laborers' International Union of North America based in Ohio, "this initiative echoed across the country."
"We don't get calls every day from members asking about relocating to Columbus, Ohio from hundreds or thousands of miles away," he said. "They know Intel is coming," the source said.
Ohio gave Intel over $2 billion in incentives, including a 30-year tax break, to secure the project. To expand the semiconductor sector locally and globally, Intel has proposed investing $150 million in educational support.
Following Congress' approval last month of a package bolstering the semiconductor sector and scientific research to create more high-tech jobs in the United States and help it better compete with foreign rivals, construction is anticipated to pick up speed. It includes a 25% tax credit for businesses that invest in chip facilities in the US as well as more than $52 billion in grants and other incentives for the semiconductor industry.
The 7,000 employees needed for the central Ohio project won't all be needed at once. As the Intel project alters hundreds of primarily rural acres roughly 30 minutes east of Columbus, they are also only a percentage of what will be required.
For instance, Missouri-based VanTrust Real Estate announced it was constructing a 500-acre (200-hectare) business park next door to house Intel suppliers just six months after Intel disclosed the Ohio facility. 5 million square feet (464,515 square meters) is around nine football fields in size. It is anticipated that such projects would require more vendors.
To assure enough construction workers, California-based Intel will draw on the lessons acquired from constructing earlier semiconductor sites around the country and the world, the firm said in a statement.
Access to the area's strong labor was cited by Intel as one of the state's top grounds for selection, according to the business. Although there will be difficulties, we are convinced that there is enough demand for these positions to be filled.
In central Ohio, where other ongoing projects include a 28-story Hilton close to downtown Columbus, a $2 billion expansion of The Ohio State University's medical center, and a $365 million Amgen biomanufacturing plant not far from the Intel plant, labor leaders and state officials acknowledge there is not currently a pool of 7,000 additional workers.
Additionally, there are plans for a new $200 million municipal courthouse south of Columbus, at least three additional Google and Amazon data labor center, and solar array projects that might alone require roughly 6,000 construction jobs.
According to federal figures, central Ohio has around 45,000 people working in residential and commercial construction. Given labor present and upcoming demands, that number increased by 1,800 between May 2021 and May 2022, indicating a shortage in the future.
According to Mary Tebeau, executive director of the Builders Exchange of Central Ohio, a trade association for the construction sector, "I don't know of a single commercial construction company that's not recruiting."
Training initiatives, a campaign to encourage more high school students to pursue careers in trades, and basic economics all work to balance the imbalance. According to Dorsey Hager, executive secretary enters the, and treasurer of the Columbus Building Trades Council, the annual salary for skilled tradesmen might reach $125,000 when overtime is taken into account.
Or, to put it another way, the Intel project is so significant and lucrative that it will open up prospects for people who didn't see construction work in their future, according to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, the state's economic development point person.
"You will find the skill," he asserted, "when you're ready to pay people more to do something."
According to Ed Brady, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Home Builders Institute, in addition to new and out-of-state workers, some will likely be plucked from the residential construction business, reducing an already limited number of homebuilders.
According to Ed Dietz of the National Association of Home Builders, this creates a housing shortage risk that might stifle the exact kind of economic growth that Intel is encouraging.
"How can you draw in those company investments if you can't also increase the amount of housing that is available to accommodate the expanding labor force?
By 2050, there will likely be 3 million people living in Central Ohio, which would mean 11,000 to 14,000 new homes will need to be built each year. According to Jennifer Noll, associate director for community development at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, that was before Intel's announcement. With 11,000 units, the region came the closest to that objective in 2020.
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