TOPEKA – A company known for protecting electronic devices from destructive magnetic pulses on Monday unveiled plans to invest $1.9 billion in a computer chip manufacturing plant in Burlington capable of employing about 1,200 people when fully operational.
Gov. Laura Kelly said EMP Shield would locate the secure chip manufacturing facility on 300 acres in Silicon Prairie Industrial Park. That plant would partner with six out-of-state suppliers that can add 1,000 jobs in Coffey County southeast of Topeka.
“Right now, computer chips, the technology that powers everything from cars to smartphones to broadband, are mostly made in China. This is a problem,” Kelly said. “It means that both our national defense systems and the goods and services Americans rely on are vulnerable to the whims of the Communist Party of China. And it means that if there’s a shortage of computer chips, as we’re experiencing right now, we have no control as prices skyrocket.”
EMP Shield said it will seek to take advantage of state financial incentives when applying for federal aid under the Creating Helpful Incentives for Semiconductor Manufacturing Act. It is the bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden to encourage domestic chip production. During the COVID-19 pandemic, an international shortage of chips has undermined all manner of US industries.
“Coffey County really appears to have hit the sweet spot for everything required for CHIPS Act funding,” said Tim Carty, founder of EMP Shield. “Everything is falling into place and hopefully strong state support will bring us one step closer to a favorable federal response.”
It similarly relied on a state and federal stimulus package to carry forward Integra Technologies’ decision in early February to invest $1.8 billion in a semiconductor plant in Wichita.
The governor focused on economic development during her first term and placed particular emphasis on adding jobs to rural Kansas. The state rushed to implement a massive incentive program created by the 2022 legislature.
The stimulus package signed by Kelly was key to the acquisition of a $4 billion Panasonic Energy electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility last summer in De Soto. That sprawling plant – the largest economic development project in Kansas history – was expected to provide 4,000 direct jobs and 4,000 associated jobs with local suppliers and businesses.
The Burlington computer chip project would involve EMP Shield which operates four production lines in a 235,000-square-foot plant in the industrial park. It would produce thousands of chips a week in partnership with other companies.
Carty said EMP Shield plans to partner on workforce development with Coffey County, Flint Hills Technical College, Allen County Community College, Pittsburg State University, University of Kansas, Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce, Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and multiple school districts public. The goal would be to help people who grew up in Kansas stay in the state by pursuing strong career paths, she said.
“Workforce development programs are already in place that will enable high school graduates and those with two-year degrees to train and get high-paying jobs,” Carty said. “This next-generation technology project will help our community grow and make our country safer.”
He said bus lines would be established to transport workers from metropolitan areas to Burlington. He promised to purposefully seek a workforce rich in diversity, equity and inclusion.
David Toland, the lieutenant governor and secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the bottom line is that EMP Shield was another step toward anchoring lucrative career opportunities in Kansas’ growing manufacturing sector.
“Our economic development strategy is designed to continue nurturing the roots of our young talent so they can stay here in Kansas,” he said.