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Austin may soon be home to a tech plant that would dwarf the Tesla Gigafactory in both investment and job creation.
Samsung Electronics Co. is considering starting construction on a $10 billion memory chip plant in Austin as soon as this year, Bloomberg reported Friday.
The Samsung plant would compete with industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which is scheduled to begin construction on a $12 billion semiconductor factory in Phoenix later this year.
Samsung is capitalizing on a federal effort to draw advanced manufacturing plants away from Asia, Bloomberg reported.
Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC purchased roughly 258 acres of land in Northeast Austin in late October, near its existing chip manufacturing plant. Last month, Austin City Council approved a rezoning request from the company to allow for industrial use.
"The proposed (zoning) agreement will reflect almost the same conditions approved on the current Samsung Austin Semiconductor site," Case Manager Sherri Sirwaitis wrote in a staff report submitted to the council.
Samsung opened its first Austin plant in 1997 and has since expanded its campus, which now spans roughly 300 acres and employs around 3,000 people, according to the Austin Business Journal.
The company also has a long history of working with state and local governments on tax incentive deals. Between 2009 and 2019, Travis County rebated Samsung $65 million as part of an ongoing incentives agreement.
One of the people close to the matter told Bloomberg that the company may go ahead without such an incentives agreement. But the Travis County Commissioners Court is scheduled to consider whether to accept an application for an economic incentive agreement on Tuesday. A spokesperson would not say which company has filed the application—nicknamed "Project Silicon Silver."
Travis County commissioners last considered an unnamed economic incentives agreement application in May 2020, which was later revealed to have been filed by Tesla. They later approved a multimillion-dollar incentives agreement for the electric automaker, which is currently building a $1.1 billion Gigafactory in Southeast Travis County.
In response to criticism regarding the agreement, Travis County commissioners voted unanimously last month to amend its economic incentives policy to include community input requirements. As a result, if commissioners vote to accept the Project Silicon Silver application, the court will be required to post draft agreements publicly and host public hearings before taking action on any incentive agreement.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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