How foresight in public affairs can ensure the promise and potential of Intel in central Ohio
Policy and planning support education, housing and workforce impacts
Intel Corp.’s arrival in the state of Ohio marks a historic development that will transform the region. Critical to its success: public sector planning and support to ensure adequate infrastructure to meet the moment.
The company says its $20 billion investment to build two semiconductor fabrication plants northeast of Columbus will generate more than 20,000 jobs, including 3,000 direct Intel positions earning an average of $135,000 per year; a need for 7,000 construction workers; and additional indirect and support jobs including electricians, engineers and workers in the food, health care, housing, entertainment and other industries. The megaproject is expected to add $2.8 billion to Ohio’s annual gross state product.
“It’s a massive project that involves the public and private sector,” said Kimberly Murnieks, a John Glenn College of Public Affairs graduate and director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management and chief financial officer for the state. “It involves job creation and workforce development and higher ed, as well as the construction industry and new technology for things like a major water reclamation facility, which hasn’t been talked about a lot, but that is a high-tech, future-focused development that could be replicated in other places. Continuing collaboration is key.”
As Intel and its employees settle in central Ohio, public and private sector planning and collaboration must support education, workforce development, housing, and research and learning, according to Glenn College faculty and alumni.
Intel is investing $50 million directly in Ohio higher education institutions including Ohio State to establish comprehensive and collaborative programs to accelerate readiness and enable the workforce needed for operations of its new semiconductor fabrication facilities and of ecosystem partners. The investments will provide resources for creating new curriculums for associate and undergraduate degrees, certifications, faculty training, reskill and upskill programs for the existing workforce, laboratory equipment upgrades and research supporting semiconductor fabrication innovation.
Josh Hawley, director of the Ohio Education Research Center (OERC), a unit of the Glenn College, said Intel will need high paying jobs in direct services along with low-wage positions.
“It will drive up demand for all kinds of workers, everything from your plumber to housekeeper. So there are lots of positive spillovers,” he said.
He’s concerned, however, that too many of the high wage jobs will come from people moving to Ohio.
“We should prioritize training and upskilling existing workers in Ohio, as opposed to recruiting. It’s a delicate balancing act, but we know HR executives in Intel are investing in developing programs with colleges, technical schools and workforce programs,” Hawley said. “These investments will help secure labor for the long run and ensure that opportunity is spread more equitably.
“We need a job pipeline into high wage jobs for Intel,” Hawley added. “There are lots of ways that apprenticeships or other programs can be used to help this happen.”
Lisa Patt-McDaniel, CEO of the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio, said much of the talent needed by Intel already exists in local employees with transferable skills.
“Intel is essentially advanced manufacturing; that’s not a skillset we don’t have,” said Patt-McDaniel, who holds a master’s degree in public policy and management from the Glenn College. She is working with partner counties who are covered by three other workforce areas to form a collaborative to help Intel source current talent and support future talent through training or associate degrees.
Another example: construction workers who don’t need advanced training and could start work immediately.
“It’s very possible you could get a job there now and will be working on that site for 20 years because they’ll be adding additional fabrication facilities,” she said, pointing out that Intel has indicated it could expand beyond its planned two new fabrication plants to eight. “It’s a project that will keep on giving in the way of jobs.”
However, she said, challenges are that Intel isn’t the only local company with job openings, and employees of existing companies may leave their positions to go to Intel, creating more vacancies. In addition, Intel suppliers and other businesses that will arrive to support new workers and residents also will need workers.
“For us, it’s helping them to source talent and train a pipeline,” Patt-McDaniel said.
“At the post-secondary level, it’s making sure every entrant into either our two-year or four-year colleges is aware of all the opportunities in Ohio and how their long-term career goals fit into what’s here,” she said, to aid talent retention in the state.
Ohio State is already partnering with other Midwest colleges and universities to support the onshoring of the advanced semiconductor and microelectronics industry and address the industries’ research and workforce needs.
Patt-McDaniel said building an employee pipeline also requires continuing workforce development efforts even as early as grade school, providing career exploration programs so that by the time students get to high school, they choose opportunities in central Ohio.
The local housing market already shows effects that the potential influx of new Intel employees brings for supply and demand and pricing.
“One of the awesome things about Intel is it’s going to raise property values; one of the scary things about Intel is it’s going to raise property values,” said Stephanie Moulton, a Glenn College professor whose expertise includes housing and consumer finance.
“For people who already own homes, this is a good thing. But for people who haven’t yet purchased homes, already the Columbus housing market is one of strongest in the country in terms of our house price growth,” she said. “Prices have just boomed since COVID, and the population is growing, which means demand for housing and homes is increasing and supply can’t keep up with that demand, so you end up having really high prices.
“I think about the missing middle and first-time homeowners,” Moulton says. “How do we make sure there are on-ramps for new homeowners into the market? That’s going to be challenging without investment. There are things Intel could do to create on-ramps.”
Some solutions: subsidies; strategic housing development with various home price points; and help from nonprofits such as NeighborWorks, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Ohio Housing Financing Agency and the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, which have expertise on how to serve people across the income spectrum.
“It’s making sure those players are at the table and part of the discussion so they can help,” Moulton said.
Research and Learning
Intel’s arrival could provide opportunities for faculty research and student experiential learning.
While much of the focus has been on the need for employees in engineering or construction, Intel’s arrival might amplify the need for Glenn College graduates in areas including city planners, finance and budgeting, policymaking and government relations.
In fact, Patt-McDaniel said, opportunities for internships could increase as local governments need additional staffing and fresh perspectives.
“We need people going into public service who have the ability to take a wide-angle view even if they’re working on one part of it,” she said. “I honestly think that when you’re in the policy and government seat, you have the ability to do so much good to set the conditions for everything else to work.”
Moulton, who also serves as the Glenn College faculty director for research, noted that Intel has demonstrated its commitment to research, and Ohio State and Intel are already collaborating on efforts such as workforce development. Many Glenn College faculty have expertise and engagement in research in the areas that will be most impacted by the company, including education, collaborative governance, support programs such as food systems, nonprofit organizations, and energy and environment policy.
“Intel could invest in ivory tower research,” Moulton said, “and our researchers can roll that back into the communities that are going to be affected by Intel.”