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SkyWater CEO: Indiana could be ‘silicon heartland’

Thomas Sonderman (podium) is the CEO of SkyWater Technology. (photo courtesy of Governor Eric Holcomb’s office)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The chief executive officer of Minnesota-based SkyWater Technology (Nasdaq: SKYT) says the company’s planned $1.8 billion semiconductor R&D and production facility will be part of an evolving ecosystem in West Lafayette. On Wednesday, the company detailed its plans for the 600,000-square-foot facility and the 750 jobs it will bring to the Discovery Park District near the Purdue University campus. Thomas Sonderman says as the semiconductor ecosystem grows over time, Indiana could become the “Silicon Heartland.”

Sonderman spoke with reporters Wednesday after the announcement in West Lafayette.

“As you begin to bring in the ecosystem, other companies will locate here [such as] equipment manufacturers, design houses, [MediaTek] just announced they’re coming here,” said Sonderman. “So, I what you’ll see is an entire community evolve.”

The company says the project hinges on the passage of the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America, or CHIPS, Act. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to begin discussions on the bill, which would provide $52 billion in funding for the American semiconductor industry.

A spokesperson for Senator Todd Young’s (R-IN) office told our partners at the IBJ lawmakers are confident the bill will receive Congressional approval by August 5.

Sonderman said while the project will rely on funding from the CHIPS Act, the company would still pursue manufacturing semiconductors in West Lafayette.

“I think it’s a gating item, and obviously we want it to pass,” Sonderman said. “What it does is accelerates everything. While we want to have the federal support, I don’t think it diminishes the mission.”

Sonderman says Purdue’s commitment to the semiconductor industry with its recently-announced Semiconductor Degrees Program was a “huge catalyst” for selecting Indiana for the fabrication facility, or “fab.”

“Other people are announcing fabs, but none of them are doing it on a campus like Purdue. And so, in many ways, I think we are the poster child for what the CHIPS Act is all about,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of the graduates of Purdue stay in this region and now have a fab where they can go work.”

Sonderman said if the CHIPS Act is passed, the company would immediately submit for funding. While a specific start date for construction is not known, he says it would take up to 36 months to begin production at the facility.

SkyWater bills itself as the only U.S.-investor owned pure-play semiconductor and technology foundry. The company, which has 600 employees, went public in April 2021, raising about $97 million in its initial public offering.

The company’s shares closed at $10.85 each Wednesday following the announcement.