GlobalFoundries Lauds Leahy for Latest Infusion of Federal Cash | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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GlobalFoundries Lauds Leahy for Latest Infusion of Federal Cash

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Published October 17, 2022 at 5:13 p.m.


Sen. Patrick Leahy visits chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries, which is naming its main entrance after him. - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy visits chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries, which is naming its main entrance after him.
Chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries announced on Monday that outgoing U.S Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had secured $30 million in federal funding to help it develop the next generation of powerful semiconductors.

The company celebrated the award by hosting Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, at its Essex Junction plant and honoring him for his years of federal support as he heads toward retirement. The event came just days after Vermont's senior senator, 82, spent a night in the hospital in the Washington, D.C., area after reporting that he didn't feel well.

GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield said the latest federal investments will allow the company to perfect and ramp up production of new kinds of semiconductors that will be a “game changer” in the industry. Instead of being manufactured directly on thin silicon wafers, the new chips would contain a layer of gallium nitride, or GaN, that can handle the higher power needed for a range of electronic applications.



“The resulting chips will enable batteries that will be smaller, charge faster and lose less power,” Caulfield told a crowd of employees, public officials and members of the media who gathered for the announcement. “They will be used in automobiles, phones, cell towers and industrial robots around the world.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy visits chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy visits chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries
The company, Vermont's largest private employer, has already developed prototypes of the large 8-inch-wide wafers — the first company of its kind in the world to do so, according to Caulfield. Other chip manufacturers are using GaN technology, but only on smaller wafers.

The new process will be cheaper and more efficient and will make the company more competitive, Caulfield said.

Caulfield applauded Leahy’s continued support, in the form of the recent federal appropriation of $30 million, as well as the $52 billion bill President Joe Biden signed in August to strengthen the domestic semiconductor industry.

The CHIPS and Science Act aims to boost semiconductor supply chains with investments in research, development and the workforce to make the U.S. more competitive globally.

Shortages of semiconductors, partly due to the pandemic, have been blamed for crippling backlogs in a number of industries, including consumer appliances and automobiles. Some view the nation's limited capabilities as a national security issue.

Leahy alluded to such security issues when he recalled a meeting with officials from GlobalFoundries, the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence communities. He declined to elaborate on what they discussed.

Semiconductors are “vital to the world economy and society at large,” but only 12 percent are produced in the U.S., Caulfield said. The federal act will allow GlobalFoundries — and other domestic chip makers — to apply for grants to help it purchase tools and equipment to make the 65-year-old plant more competitive, he said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy visits chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries. - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy visits chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries.
“Thank you to Sen. Leahy for securing this federal funding, investing in innovation in good jobs in Vermont and helping position this facility to become a global leader in manufacturing the next generation of chips beyond silicon in semiconductors,” Caulfield said.

Leahy said he appreciated meeting with GlobalFoundries officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss their needs, as well as meeting company employees in the community.

“We value the partnership of GlobalFoundries. It’s an important part of our state,” Leahy said.

He said he was disappointed not to have been able to vote for the CHIPS and Science Act because it passed while he was spending 31 days in the hospital recovering from a broken hip after a fall.

“I basically had to learn how to walk again afterward,” he said on Monday, stepping gingerly and with a cane at times.

But as president pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy had to sign the bill for it to become law. After being discharged from the hospital the day after the vote, he recalled being rushed to the Capitol in a van. A congressional staffer brought the bill out to him for his signature.



“I don’t know what people must have thought that transaction was,” Leahy quipped to warm laughs from the audience.

Leahy acknowledged that his seniority, particularly as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has allowed him to secure significant funding for GlobalFoundries over the years. First elected in 1974, he is the longest-serving senator, with 48 years in the chamber.

But he said the real reason he's been successful is because he made a compelling case for the funding to his colleagues, Republican and Democrats alike.
Sen. Patrick Leahy accepts an plaque from GlobalFoundries CEO Tom Caulfield. - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy accepts an plaque from GlobalFoundries CEO Tom Caulfield.
He said he’d simply tell them, “I give you my word, this is worth it because the men and women who work there, these are the best of the best. They make America proud,” he said.

The celebration in Essex Junction continued when facility general manager Ken McAvey revealed that the main entryway of the GlobalFoundries building would be named after Leahy.

The event was the latest of several to fête Leahy as he approaches retirement in January. The University of Vermont, which Leahy attended, surprised him last week with an announcement that its newest Lake Champlain research vessel would be named "Marcelle."