11 new fabs possible in both Taylor, Austin — but not until 2034
By Justin Sayers – Staff Writer, Austin Business Journal
Jul 20, 2022 Updated Jul 20, 2022, 6:13pm CDT
One of the largest economic development projects ever in Texas is on track to go even bigger. And if Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. completes what it has proposed, it has the potential to be one of the paramount economic development deals in American history.
As the South Korea-based technology giant starts work on its $17 billion next-generation chipmaking facility in Taylor, northeast of Austin, details have been released about potential further expansion that could yield an almost unfathomable capital investment, thousands more high-paying jobs and ripples in the local economy for generations to come. On top of that, it would help fortify the country's place as a self-sufficient source of computer chips.
Incentives applications made public July 20 show Samsung is eyeing an additional $192.1 billion in capital investment and at least 10,000 new jobs, both in Taylor and at an existing manufacturing campus in Northeast Austin. That would include the construction of 11 fabrication plants, or fabs, in the coming decades, with the first completed in 2034.
While there is no guarantee the company follows through on these additional developments, these applications offer the first glimpse of the scope of what Samsung may eventually build.
"We currently do not have specific plans to build at this time, however, the Chapter 313 applications to the State of Texas are part of a long-term planning process of Samsung to evaluate the viability of potentially building additional fabrication plants in the United States," Michele Glaze, director of communications at Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC, said in a statement.
To put Samsung's plan into focus, Tesla's new Austin Gigafactory has been put up as a roughly $1 billion investment. Intel Corp. has proposed the world's largest chipmaking facility in Ohio at a $20 billion investment, although officials have said that could quickly grow to $100 billion.
Here's another perspective: the United States spent about $500 billion, in today's dollars, to build its interstate highway system.
Samsung's semiconductor plant in Hwaseong, South Korea, in 2019. It's an example of how big the company can go — and, to be sure, Samsung has more ambitious plans now than it has in the past. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
While Samsung has not fully committed to moving ahead with the expansion, its possibility was cheered by government leaders.
"I am excited about Samsung’s potential expansion in the region that could exceed $184 billion in Williamson County. Our working relationship is strong and our future is bright," Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said in a statement. "We are grateful to Samsung for partnering with us to be a leader in the technology industry as the home to potentially the largest semiconductor facility in the world. We are proud to provide this critical infrastructure for national security by producing semiconductors here in the United States. We also are excited for what these agreements could mean for the children of Taylor and Taylor ISD."
Taylor Mayor Brandt Rydell, who along with Gravell was one of the key insiders in bringing the deal to Taylor, called the potential investment "unfathomable."
"I still haven't gotten my mind around what a $17 billion investment means for Taylor. To me that was already borderline unfathomable just in terms of the scale of that project and what it means for not just Taylor [but also] the region," he said in an interview. "With now this news that the potential expansion could include up to nine fabs and $167.4 billion ... that's like trying to consider the limits of the universe to me."
The first clues of Samsung's potential blockbuster expansion emerged about two months ago when the company received approval from school boards in Manor and Taylor to pursue roughly a dozen new incentives agreements for tax breaks for large manufacturing projects. That lined up with a previous announcement that Samsung wanted to invest $205 billion globally, including $154 billion in its home country alone.
Just the talk of additional Samsung expansion and incentives bolsters Central Texas' reputation as one of the world's premiere semiconductor hubs. And it comes at a critical time, with the globe facing a semiconductor shortage.
Samsung is asking for Chapter 313 incentives, which allow school districts to limit the taxable value of a property for a portion of school taxes. The Chapter 313 program allows a cap of $10 million to $100 million for up to 10 years.
Samsung is seeking to place an $80 million cap on the value of the land for maintenance and operations school taxes. This is just the application stage; no deals have been finalized and the incentives details are still subject to negotiations.
If Samsung is ultimately approved for all of the incentives agreements, and the projects proceed as described, the company could save nearly $4.8 billion on its property taxes over the course of the agreements, based on an Austin Business Journal analysis of the applications. That’s according to projections of land values far into the future, so it’s a rough estimation, but it offers an idea of the immense value of the incentives.
"Close partnerships with companies like Samsung — who recognize the boundless possibilities Texas has to offer — are bringing greater opportunities to Texans, and this potential investment will bring billions of additional capital to continue growing our world-class business climate and diverse, highly-skilled workforce. These new facilities solidify the Lone Star State as the nation's leader in the semiconductor industry, and I thank Samsung for increasing their investment in the hardworking people of Central Texas," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Samsung has had a presence in the Austin area for decades, and made waves last year when it pledged to create the 6 million-square-foot facility in Taylor. That announcement, held at the governor's mansion, was heralded as a "generational investment" and the largest ever foreign direct investment in Texas. Samsung promised at least 2,000 direct jobs and about 6,500 construction jobs.
The company already had 3,200 employees in the Austin area in the first quarter.
This additional expansion, if pursued, would significantly add to Samsung's Austin presence. The new factories would rise on the roughly 1,260 acres the company owns in Taylor and at its massive chipmaking campus off East Parmer Lane in Austin, which operates around the clock and is within the boundaries of the Manor school district.
At the 640-acre site in Austin, Samsung is proposing two additional fabrication plants. The first project, scheduled to be up and running in 2034, would be approximately a $12 billion investment and create at least 900 jobs. The second project, scheduled to be up and running by 2042, would be a $12.5 billion and create at least 900 jobs.
At the site in Taylor, Samsung is proposing an additional nine fabs. Those would total 8,200 jobs and a capital investment of at least $167.6 billion, with one plant coming on line each year between 2034 and 2042.
"This project is highly competitive, and the company is exploring national and global sites, plus sites in South Korea where Samsung Austin Semiconductor’s parent company is headquartered," the company said in the incentives applications. "Due to the higher tax cost of operating in Texas, the appraised value limitation is a determining factor. Without the appraised value limitation award, the company would likely not locate the project in Texas."
The Chapter 313 incentives program was not reauthorized by the 2021 Texas Legislature, meaning it is set to sunset at the end of this year. The Texas comptroller has asked for applications to be submitted by June 1, further upping the pressure on companies hoping to make use of the tax breaks. It's been widely believed that many companies are filing plans for years out to ensure they secure incentives should they plan to build in the future.
Taylor Independent School District trustees last year approved a Chapter 313 agreement for the previously announced Samsung project. The company could save an estimated $292 million on property taxes over 10 years. The school district still expects to gain about $46 million during that period, which school administrators have said could be used for needs such as teacher pay raises and infrastructure funding.
Samsung also secured incentives more than a decade ago for its Northeast Austin campus.
Samsung has already started work on its Taylor factory, which is expected to have a major impact in the small town. It had an estimated 2021 population of 16,807, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Slideshow: What's Samsung up to in Taylor? Check out the site progress from late June.
The facility, rising near the former intersection of County Roads 401 and 404, is expected to be completed in 2024.
Samsung has said its Taylor plant will manufacture its most advanced computer chips ever. President Joe Biden in May toured Samsung's plant in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, the largest semiconductor factory in the world, which the White House said will be a model for the Taylor facility.
A handful of Samsung suppliers have revealed potential projects in the region on the heels of Samsung's Taylor announcement late last year.
Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT), which supplies almost every major semiconductor company in the world with equipment and software, is eyeing a massive project in Hutto that could create 500 jobs and result in $2 billion in capital investment.
United Kingdom-based Linde PLC (Nasdaq: LIN), the largest industrial gas company in the world, wants to build on the Samsung campus in Taylor with an investment that could top $300 million.
Valex Corp., which makes ultra-high-purity process components used in semiconductor production, is opening a facility in Round Rock.
Toppan Photomasks Inc. recently had an application for school district incentives denied in Round Rock, but is still eyeing expansion in the city, which is just down the road from Taylor.
ABJ's Paul Thompson contributed reporting.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comments from Samsung and elected officials, plus calculations of how much the company could save through Chapter 313 incentives.