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CHIPS Act spurs a local moonshot

The CHIPS and Science Act that President Joe Biden signed into law last August focuses on reshoring manufacturing of semiconductors. Which is a big deal. These tiny, advanced microcomputer chips are in everything from smartphones and cars to fighter jets. Over time, America’s semiconductor industry has lost considerable ground to foreign competitors, primarily in East Asia. Today, only 12% of chips are manufactured in the U.S., down from 37% in the 1990s. That’s made the U.S. dependent upon — and vulnerable to — global supply chains. Disruptions can cripple domestic production of anything that needs a chip to operate. Reshoring production aims to mitigate those supply chain issues — which can have national security implications — but also fill in a research-and-development gap to make sure that innovation is brought to market from “lab to fab,” or from the laboratory to a fabricator on U.S. soil. In a rare fit of wisdom, lawmakers in Congress saw an opportunity to not only revitalize the semiconductor industry, but to rebuild U.S. technological leadership and lay the groundwork for an innovation renaissance. The bipartisan law authorizes roughly $280 billion in funding over the next decade to expand domestic semiconductor manufacturing — and for research and development of new technology and workforce training. The act includes $11 billion to bring a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub to 20 cities in flyover country, a third of which must be “rural.” A ‘perfect spot’ for a federally funded tech hub? Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis was quick to recognize Grand Junction’s potential to become a tech hub. He was on a three-person panel discussing the potential impact of the CHIPS Act on Colorado and Grand Junction during Thursday’s Western Colorado Economic Summit. That discussion revealed that Grand Junction has a lot of checkable boxes on a list the U.S. Economic Development Administration has compiled for communities interested in applying for tech hub status and funding. As Davis noted, Grand Junction has the facilities, the utilities, the workforce and the education provided by Colorado Mesa University (and through CMU’s affiliation with a top-ranked Tier 1 research institution, CU-Boulder) to be considered a “perfect spot” for an innovation hub. As the Sentinel’s Nathan Deal reported, Davis said a local consortium has been formed to compile a list of Mesa County’s assets to be included in a regional innovation hub application. Two primary assets that have been identified are proximity to the Colorado River — the lifeblood of the Southwest — and the presence of Kurtis Minder, the co-founder and CEO of the cybersecurity company Group-Sense. Minder has become a significant figure in the world of ransomware negotiations and cybersecurity, having been interviewed by outlets ranging from The New Yorker to HBO. Minder’s expertise — assuming he’s a willing participant — sets up Grand Junction to specialize in some aspect of national security. The Tech Hubs program seeks to strengthen U.S. national and economic security by developing clusters of businesses, communities, colleges and universities and workers “focused on accelerating innovation and technology deployment throughout the country.” Best laid plans need a champion Grand Junction’s challenge is to marshal its forces in pursuit of a singular goal, not unlike JFK’s call to put a man on the moon within a short period of time. One panelist said Colorado likely has only “one shot on goal.” And the EDA makes it clear that riches are in the niches. “Successful proposals will demonstrate a region’s capabilities in, and focus on, its primary technological strength, and its potential for Tech Hubs investments to enable the region to become the global leader in that critical technology area within a decade,” according to the EDA’s fact sheet Grand Junction has an impressive history of community collaboration to get things done. We have high confidence that the consortium will submit a competitive bid for a Tech Hub designation, but it will need all the help it can get. On the opposite page is an op-ed from Rep. Lauren Boebert touting her new-found focus on using a reformed system of congressional earmarks to capture funding for infrastructure projects that benefit 3rd Congressional District communities. Here’s an opportunity for her to get behind an effort that would bring money, jobs and economic development to the heart of her district. Tina Peters’ legal defense team ought to be squirming after one of her lieutenants was sentenced to jail time Wednesday for her role in Peters’ ill-fated scheme to prove nonexistent election fraud in 2020 and 2021. In issuing […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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