Column: Dirk Knudsen, Editor
The winds of change are blowing not only over Oregon but across the farmland surrounding Hillsboro, again. Despite just receiving thousands of acres of new industrial land, the City of Hillsboro is pursuing more expansion. This time everyone in Oregon is looking to serve up land and funds to Intel. The Herald recently covered the Intel expansions into Ohio and the new research facility they will be building here in Hillsboro. Local residents who thought the growth we have had in the past decade was incredible better strap in for the ride. Things are about to get much wilder!
The Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force made up of a who’s who of Oregon power elite, has just issued a report called “Seizing Opportunity.” In this report, the task force, which includes Governor Kate Brown, Senator Ron Wyden, Mayor Steve Callaway, and others, makes the case for immediate action to grow our semiconductor industry and to do it quickly. Look at this lineup:
Quoting from this report, the desire to grab money and jobs is evident.
The global semiconductor industry is investing billions to fill a worldwide chip shortage. And the U.S.
Government is taking strong action to secure our nation’s semiconductor supply chain. In July 2022
Congress passed the $52 billion CHIPS Act to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing and design.
This creates a huge opportunity to solidify Oregon’s position as a world leader in semiconductor
innovation, dramatically expanding our base of semiconductor design and manufacturing.
Anyone with a pulse and a brain knows that the semiconductor industry in Oregon is only in greater Hillsboro, and that is where it is going to stay. Undoubtedly, many cities will fight for these jobs and the billions of dollars that will flow into Oregon potentially. But is near impossible that Intel or any other chip manufacturer will build or expand in Oregon outside the Hub City. Hillsboro and the surrounding cities are going to see a wave of investment and jobs unlike any we have seen since Ronler Acres opened. Read the report linked above.
The report deals with land needs, funding, incentives, workforce, and more. Land will be on the table as never before, and despite Oregon’s tight land used systems, I believe we are about to see Oregon pull a 180 on the past in regards to this matter. Look for land up and down US 26 between Brookwood Road and Banks to be under the microscope. Land speculation started a decade or more ago with foreign and out-of-state interests buying up large parcels. Now they will have a willing development partner in Hillsboro, Washington County, and the State of Oregon. From the land subcommittee working in this group, the following quotes can be found.
The semiconductor industry is poised for a 1990s-like growth surge. Though the Metro region has
thousands of acres of industrial land, its lacks supply of development-ready large industrial sites (25-
plus buildable acres) the semiconductor industry needs to grow
The surge of semiconductor activity in the 1990s required 2,000+ acres of industrial land. There is
reason to believe today’s boom could be even larger. If we use the 1990s analog to gain a rough sense of
possible demand today, we find that we are in significant shortage of development-ready industrial
Oregon lacks both adequate funding for infrastructure, and tools for land aggregation to make large
lots development ready to respond to strategic opportunities.
I have heard Hillsboro Economic Development Director Dan Dias hinting about the need for more land for a couple of years now. He has turned up that message in recent meetings and is beating the drum for more industrial land. Hillsboro annexed over 1,000 acres West of Brookwood only a few years ago but did not have the foresight to put controls in place to prevent data centers from buying it all, so they have. Dias and his staff just oversaw the acquisition by the City of about 120 acres North of Waible Creek off of Starr Blvd, Meek Road, and Sewell Road. The price tag for those parcels with purchase and improvement costs will push over $150,000,000 of taxpayer money. But it is not a big enough site for the type of use that is needed. According to this new report, Oregon needs thousands of acres of new industrial land to compete with other states like Arizona, Ohio, Texas, and beyond. Because there are billions and billions in Federal dollars available right now, the sense of urgency is palpable.
The time is now, Hillsboro is the place, and the powerful are lined up. It does not take a PHD to realize what this means. If you locals thought the growth would never take Hillsboro to North Plains, think again. In the not too distant future, what is left of our agrarian roots may be gone and the city a morass of rooftops and smokestacks. This just means Hillsboro will follow the path that Silicon Valley did. Maybe we thought it could not happen, but it is happening and will continue to happen. It is being done in the name of jobs. Housing, land costs, the environment, and livability will be where the bill will have to be paid.
I am not sure how I feel about this. Hillsboro does not resemble the place it used to be much anymore, and jobs and the money they create seem to be what most people care about. At least those in power. They say you can never go back and that you can not fight City Hall. I don’t believe either of those things is true. But I do know there is more to life than money and that many good people are already left far behind as a result of the world we now have. It is for those folks and all of those that will be displaced that I worry.
The winds of change are blowing again. And they may not stop.