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GlobalFoundries Spends $55 Million To Boost Manufacturing At Essex Plant

VPR/Steve Zind
Dale Miller of GlobalFoundries says an upgrade at the Essex Junction plant will increase production of chips used in mobile devices

GlobalFoundries says it has completed a $55 million project at its Essex Junction plant.

The company says as part of the project it has converted 50 supplemental positions to long-term, full time jobs.

At an event to mark the completion, company officials said the investment increases the plant’s capacity to make small chips used in cell phones and tablet devices.

"[We're] coming up with innovation within established technologies, so that we can stay in front." - Dale Miller of GlobalFoundries

“We’re taking what would be considered in the industry older technologies and reworking those and coming up with innovation within established technologies, so that we can stay in front and continue to use technologies that we’ve been running for years,” said Dale Miller, director of fab operations at the facility, which is known as Fab 9 in the GlobalFoundries network of manufacturing plants.

The project began nine months ago, even before the company took over the plant from IBM.

Officials described it as a "complex" effort involving hundreds of people and new and upgraded equipment.

Its completion allows GlobalFoundries to increase production of wafers -- circular plate sized discs, each of which contains 20,000 tiny chips used in mobile applications like cell phones and tablets. The company can now produce 5 million additional chips daily at the Essex Junction plant.

Janette Bombardier, senior location executive at GlobalFoundries, said the investment signals the company’s commitment to the Vermont operation.

"This is significant when you think about what we've done here." -GlobalFoundries' Janette Bombardier on the company's $55 million investment in the Essex Jct. plant.

“Certainly a $55 million investment is not something you do for a temporary gap. This is significant when you think about what we’ve done here,” she said.

Bombardier characterized a recent round of buyouts, which reduced the Vermont workforce by roughly 3 percent, as a cost saving measure, not an effort to cut back on operations or a sign that demand for chips manufactured in Essex Junction is slowing down.

Buyouts and layoffs also took place at other GlobalFoundries facilities.

Bombardier suggested the buyouts targeted older workers.  

“We have the same demographics at our plant as the rest of Vermont does… We respect how many years of service they gave us, so it was a great opportunity for them and it helped us with our costs,” she said.

Appearing at the event marking the completion of the project, Gov. Peter Shumlin called GlobalFoundries “Vermont’s most important employer.”

“What this expansion means is: bright future for Vermont, bright future for GlobalFoundries… and a bright future for the hundreds of ancillary jobs that are created because of GlobalFoundries’ investment,” Shumlin said.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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