January 21 was a red-letter day for Lorain County.

After much speculation and anticipation, Intel announced that the American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, would be investing more than $20 billion in the construction of two new leading-edge chip factories in Ohio.

Lorain County Community College President Marcia Ballinger couldn’t be happier about Intel’s plans to launch what company CEO Pat Gelsinger calls “The Silicon Heartland” in the Buckeye State.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment,” she says. “What we’ve done at the college over the last 10 years has positioned us so well to be part of that driver of talent development around the semiconductor industry for our region. We’ve been working with employers to look at semiconductors and chip fabrication, and how we can prepare students to compete in that world, and ensure that employers — especially in the supply chain throughout Ohio — have the talent they need.”

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) began laying that groundwork in 2008, a year Ballinger describes as a “big inflection point” — the time when the world started to become acquainted with the new age of digitalization.

“We didn’t have a crystal ball, but we were very intentional about our strategic planning process, and engaging our stakeholders in it,” she says. “And what we found was that there was an intensive need to have training in a facility that would cut across industry sectors. Cloud computing came online, and the iPhone came out. Author Thomas Friedman visited our campus a few years ago, and he mentioned there was only one other time in history where technology transformed the world — and that was when Gutenberg invented the printing press.”

“I believe,” Ballinger adds, “that the semiconductor industry in Ohio is the hope for the future.”

As the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio history, the initial phase of the project is expected to create 3,000 Intel jobs with an average salary of $135,000 per person, 7,000 construction jobs while the factories are being built in Licking County and support tens of thousands of additional support positions for electricians, engineers, suppliers — as well as jobs in restaurants, healthcare, housing and entertainment. Chips made here will power everything from personal computers to jet engines, and the Ohio factory is predicted to become a major component of Intel’s leading-edge manufacturing work.

In a January 23 guest column published in The Columbus Dispatch, Keyvan Esfarjani, executive vice president, chief global operations officer and general manager of Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Operations at Intel Corporation, wrote, “With  the potential to grow to more than $100 billion over the next decade, this investment is an essential part of our strategy to restore U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing — an area where the nation has fallen behind to foreign competitors. … The chips made in Licking County will not only help diversify the region’s economy, but they will also make U.S. supply chains, and the overall economy, more resilient.”

Esfarjani added that the company is looking forward to forging close partnerships with the educational institutions that are vital to providing the talent needed for success.

LCCC is well-prepared to do that. The college is in a unique position within Ohio’s academic landscape because it already correlates with the semiconductor needs Intel’s operation will bring.

“[When we started planning for this day to come], people were asking, ‘Why do you do this?,’ recalls Matt Apanius, managing director of the Richard Desich SMART Center at LCCC. “When Intel lands in your backyard, universities are going to want to support the industry. But LCCC went in the other direction. We said, ‘You know what? This is where we’re going, and we should be ready when the time comes because if we’re not, we’ll miss the opportunity.’ We don’t have to change what we’ve been doing. We’ve been doing it for so many years that we’re essentially already the experts.”

Named after Lorain native and Equity Trust owner and founder Richard Desich, the SMART Center offers back-end packaging solutions for companies that manufacture sensors and other silicon-fabbed devices.

With a team that includes LCCC graduates and interns, the Center provides cost-effective technical, facility and equipment resources to startups, multinational organizations and federal agencies developing micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)-based sensor products. A world-class MEMS development foundry with cleanroom, the SMART Center provides microelectronic packaging, assembly and test capabilities. (SMART is the college’s acronym for Sensors/MEMS Advanced Packaging and Reliability Testing.)

LCCC is the first college in Ohio to offer a bachelor of applied science degree in microelectronic manufacturing. Building on the college’s associate of applied science degree in MEMS — in which students learn how to work in a cleanroom and put sensors in product packages — those pursuing a BS degree develop their knowledge in computer science, electronics, soldering, chemistry and mechanics. They also gain experience with Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and microelectronic design, assembly and prototyping as well as electronics and drafting. Students in this degree program are required to complete an additional 300 hours (600 total; 300 hours are required in the associate degree program) of paid work experience in their respective fields prior to graduation.

“I’m very excited we have these programs up and running,” says Kelly Zelesnik, dean of LCCC’s Engineering, Business and Information Technologies division. “We have a high, high graduation rate, and every student who completes the program has job placement. We service over 80 companies in our region, and that’s going to grow because Intel’s move to Ohio is a signal that’s going to attract many more companies into the area. With a high employment and graduation rate, Lorain County Community College is well positioned to support the companies that are here, as well as those that are expanding and moving [here].”

LCCC is also the home of the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) technology incubator that helps Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs marry sound business practices and ideas. Experienced Entrepreneurs-in-Residence provide professional business assistance to companies through every state of development and connect them with the resources they need for success.

“Intel’s announcement is monumental,” says LCCC assistant professor Johnny Vanderford, coordinator of the MEMS degree program and director of MERIT, the college’s Manufacturing Electronics & Rework Institute for Training lab. “To know that we’ve already been training students in microelectronic manufacturing, wafer fabrication and semi-conductor processes that include sputtering and photolithographic processing, is fantastic.”

Intel’s investment in Ohio made headlines around the world.

In announcing the company’s intention to invest in Ohio on January 21, Gov. Mike DeWine proclaimed it to be a “great day in Ohio history,” adding that he was initially contacted by Intel on May 3 of last year, and received the good news on Christmas Day.

“This is a major win for Ohio,” DeWine said.” And it’s really a game changer, a game changer for our economic future. You know Intel could have put these plants anywhere in the country. In fact, there were 40 states that were competing to try to get these plants and … they chose Ohio. … This victory really builds on our history as a great manufacturing state. Intel joins a growing list of manufacturing companies that have made the decision to come to Ohio or to expand in Ohio. …

“Intel already has 140 suppliers in Ohio. And with this plan, they’re going to add many, many more all over the state. … What makes this announcement truly transformative for Ohio is that from now on any company any place that’s thinking about opening a new plant will simply have to give Ohio a good look. It matters. …

“Intel, of course, will be making semiconductor chips right here. These chips are the tiny brains that are in devices that power everything from the cell phone in your pocket, to your car, to a farmer’s combine to all our consumer electronics and so much, much more. Simply put, chips are the foundation that modern life is really a part of. It’s really what makes modern life possible.

“And let’s talk also for a moment about national security because this is about national security. It’s so vitally important that we make these chips right here in the United States of America. … Let’s go back a little bit, and look what’s happened: In 1990, the United States was a world leader in chip production. It had nearly 40% of the world’s production capacity. But today, that number has fallen to 12%, while countries in Asia have 75% of the world’s chip capacity. Simply put, we must make more products right here in the United States. And there is no better place to manufacture any of them than right here in Ohio made by Ohioans. … We’re within a day’s drive of 60% of the population in the United States and of Canada. …

“Ohioans have always been dreamers. And we’ve always been doers. Intel’s announcement today just confirms that once again, this is Ohio’s time in history. … We have an opportunity to lead once again. Intel’s announcement today is a signal to China and to the rest of the world that from now on our essential manufactured products in this country will be made in the United States of America. …”

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, also in attendance when the announcement was made at the Midland Theatre in Newark, added that Intel’s Ohio site represents the company’s first major site announcement in 40 years.

“This site is going to be strengthening Ohio’s leadership and research and high technology, and we expect that Intel Ohio will become one of the — if not the largest — semiconductor manufacturing sites in the world over the next decade,” Gelsinger says.

“… As we looked at and we competed across the world to pick this site, the long and deep history of manufacturing in Ohio was a clear draw for why we wanted to come here — essential industries, from automobiles to chemicals manufacture in Ohio. And so what better place for us to build our next major manufacturing location and be frontier of technology, Ohio. … We are the company that helped put silicon in Silicon Valley. When we moved to Oregon, we established the Silicon Forest. When we went to Arizona, we helped to establish the Silicon Desert. We went to Ireland and helped to create the Silicon Isle. We went to Israel and we helped to establish the Silicon Oasis. And today, the Silicon Heartland begins.”

During his State of the Union Address on March 1, President Joe Biden praised Intel while calling on Congress to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act, designed to make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing.

“If you travel 20 miles east of Columbus, Ohio, you’ll find 1,000 empty acres of land,” the president said. “It won’t look like much, but if you stop and look closely, you’ll see a ‘Field of Dreams,’ the ground on which America’s future will be built. This is where Intel, the American company that helped build Silicon Valley, is going to build its $20 million semiconductor mega site. Up to eight state-of-the-art factories in one place [and] 10,000 new good-paying jobs. Some of the most sophisticated manufacturing in the world to make computer chips the size of a fingertip that power the world and our everyday lives.”

Lorain County will benefit.

Although Intel’s new site will be in Licking County, Lorain County Chamber of Commerce President Tony Gallo, knows Lorain County will reap the benefits.

“I’m excited as I can be about something positive that’s taking place in another part of the state,” he says with a chuckle. “I admit it took me awhile to wrap my mind around it and understand how amazing this opportunity is for us. We have a community college that offers degrees in what Intel needs to hire employees in a location that’s only two hours south of us. I think it’s a really, really good thing for us here in Lorain County, a good thing for Northeast Ohio and a great thing for Ohio.”

Gallo credits Team NEO — a business and economic development organization focused on accelerating economic growth and job creation throughout the 18 counties of Northeast Ohio — and JobsOhio — a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing Ohio economic development by helping companies seize innovative growth opportunities — with joining him in fostering that inclusive attitude.

“For so long, [civic leaders] were of the mindset that if it doesn’t happen in my back yard, then it doesn’t really matter to me,” he says. “If there’s one good thing that came out of COVID, it’s that we’ve shown that people can work remotely, get education remotely, and do things we couldn’t have done or even thought about doing three years ago, five years ago or 20 years ago. Thankfully, we’ve become so much more than where our borders start and end.”