South Bay-based Intel to open third factory in Israel

When Silicon Valley-based high-tech giant Intel pondered where it should place its next factory, Israel gave them a reason to look to the Jewish state. Well, actually, 520,000,000 reasons.

Israel’s $520 million grant toward the $3.5 billion factory in Kiryat Gat, about 40 minutes southwest of Jerusalem, sealed the deal for Intel, which already is as ubiquitous a presence in Israel as Gold Star Beer or Jerusalem stone buildings. While Intel is based in Santa Clara, it’s had a presence in Israel for more than three decades, ever since co-founder Dov Froman, an Israeli, successfully lobbied for a design center to be opened there in the 1970s.

In Israel “the infrastructure is already in place. We have a highly trained Intel workforce and they know how we do things,” said Chuck Mulloy, corporate spokesman for the company’s technology manufacturing group.

“From an Intel perspective, it’s a hotspot because we’ve been there so long. The education system, the support from the government and a very well-accomplished workforce — our experience there has built on itself.”

Intel announced Dec. 1 it would immediately commence construction on its third Israeli factory. It already has another plant in Kiryat Gat, one in Jerusalem and research-and-development centers in Haifa and Tel Aviv.

In industry jargon, the third plant will be known as a 300-millimeter-wafer fabrication facility. At the facility, Intel will be able to place hundreds of millions of transistors onto cards roughly the size of a fingernail. Intel is now able to place components only 45 nanometers apart from each other; a human hair, for comparative purposes, is about 1,000 nanometers thick.

Intel currently employs about 5,000 Israelis, and Mulloy said the new 200,000-square-foot factory will provide 2,000 new jobs. Within a few years, he predicts one new computer out of five worldwide will contain Israeli-crafted components.

In years past, Intel had taken some heat in certain sectors of the world for its strong Israeli ties, but Mulloy claimed that has died down recently. The company has poured millions into research and development facilities across the Arab world and has opened technology centers in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as cementing partnerships with Palestinian universities.

Intel will put about $3 billion of its own money into the Kiryat Gat factory. Mulloy noted that about 70 percent of the factory’s cost went to the individual tools utilized in wafer technology. Each tool costs between $1 million and $4 million, and hundreds are needed for each factory.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.