DURHAM, N.C. — The president traveled to North Carolina Tuesday, touring a plant that produces silicon carbide chips for semiconductors. The company, Wolfspeed, just announced a new $5 billion facility about an hour west of Durham.
President Joe Biden made the stop in Durham to kick off his “Investing in America tour.” The tour will highlight the administration's spending on infrastructure and building up new manufacturing capacity for things like semiconductors and microchips.
The president called Wolfspeed expansion, “The largest investment in manufacturing in North Carolina’s history.”
He spoke outside Wolfspeed’s campus in Research Triangle Park, long an engine for economic growth in North Carolina tech and advanced manufacturing sectors. He was flanked by union workers wearing hardhats and reflective vests. Banners around the lot read “Investing in America.” There was a small invite-only crowd.
North Carolina has attracted several big investments for advanced manufacturing. Toyota is planning a big electric car battery plant near Greensboro. Boom Supersonic plans to build the next generation of supersonic jets at Piedmont-Triad International. Albemarle Corporation, based in Charlotte, is a major supplier of lithium used in electric car batteries, and Vinfast said it plans to build new electric vehicles in Chatham County.
“Instead of relying on minerals made overseas in places like China, the supply chain will be here in America, here in North Carolina. It’s a game changer,” Biden said.
The president said Wolfspeed will manufacture the semiconductors and some of them will be shipped just down the road where Vinfast will be making electric cars.
The new Wolfspeed plant is expected to add 1,800 jobs to the area.
“We are building things in North Carolina, Mr. President. And there is no better place to kick off your Investing in America tour than right here,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.
“Manufacturing is changing here. Building on our tradition of textiles and furniture to expand to a new generation of clean energy electric vehicles, supersonic jets and semiconductors,” he said.
The Biden administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris, the first lady and administration officials, plan to visit 20 states in the coming weeks. These stops are meant to highlight the administration’s investments in infrastructure, high-speed internet and new advanced manufacturing.
“Not many people knew what semiconductors were until a few years ago during the pandemic when you couldn’t buy a car, you couldn’t buy a dishwasher,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
Wolfspeed’s silicon carbide is a kind of semiconductor developed in North Carolina, led by researchers at N.C. State, said Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe.
“This technology isn’t something we need to bring back from overseas. Silicon carbide is American know-how and our intellectual property,” Lowe said.
“We’re building the world’s largest silicon carbide manufacturing facility just down the road in Siler City,” he said.
Wolfspeed’s campus in Research Triangle Park produces 60% of all silicon carbide globally. The new facility will increase that production in North Carolina tenfold.
Biden said his administration’s work on the Inflation Reductions Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan represent historic investment in the United States.
“We used to invest 2% of our (gross domestic product) in research and development. The last 35 years, it got down to 0.7%. But America is coming back, determined to lead the world in the manufacture of semiconductors,” the president said.
“We invented semiconductors in the United States of America,” he said.
Before his prepared speech, Biden addressed the school shooting Monday in Nashville, Tennessee.
"We know the names of the victims, we've seen the initial footage of the attack," he said. "Three children. Three children dead, all just 9 years old, including the daughter of the pastor. Three members of the staff."
"There's still more to learn about what happened. But there's plenty we do know: These families' worst nightmare occurred," he said.
"As a nation we owe these families more than our prayers. We owe them action," the president said.
"Everybody thinks somehow the Second Amendment is absolute," he said. "Why in God's name do we allow these weapons of war on our streets?"
Police said the suspect in the Nashville shooting had one handgun and two assault-style rifles. He called once again on Congress to pass a new assault weapons ban.
"There's a moral price to pay for inaction," Biden said.