Intel CEO Bob Swan has penned an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden congratulating him on his win, and urging his incoming administration to continue investment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
“Rising costs and foreign government subsidies to national champions are a significant disadvantage for US semiconductor companies that make substantial capital investments domestically,” wrote Swan.
“A national manufacturing strategy, including investment by the US government in the domestic semiconductor industry, is critical to ensure American companies compete on a level playing field and lead the next generation of innovative technology.”
Chipzilla’s chief pointed to other policy areas he argued would be beneficial to American competitiveness (and Intel’s bottom line). These were outlined in various levels of detail, with calls for digital infrastructure investment with a focus on widespread 5G deployment, spending on tech to address challenges caused by COVID-19, as well as efforts taken to improve the US labour pool. The latter mentioned education and diversity initiatives, and hinted towards a loosening of immigration policy, which would allow Intel to more easily recruit workers from overseas.
“In the US, Intel hired more than 4,000 people this year, and it still has 800 positions to fill. We produce the most complex technology on the planet and need access to the best talent available,” Swan said.
“While we work to build a greater pipeline of US high-tech workers, American universities and companies provide opportunities to smart, hard-working people from all over the world. They return the favor many times over with their contributions to this country and our technology leadership.”
Immigration of technology workers to the US is a hot topic due to allegations that large Indian outsourcing companies have abused the H-1B visa lottery system in order to undercut local workers. The Trump administration has addressed these concerns by dramatically raising the minimum salary for H-1B workers, and blocking entry of said temporary workers for much of 2020.
Judging by the timing of the letter, it appears Intel wanted to hedge its bets on whether Biden would actually take to the steps of the Capitol on 20 January 2021. Although Biden was first projected to have won the election on November 7, this has been no normal election cycle, not least due to the high voter turnout, combined with the flood of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic that delayed certification in some states.
The Trump campaign has yet to concede, instead opting to challenge the vote count in several states key to Trump’s path to victory, like Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Although the vast majority of these lawsuits have been rejected, the Trump campaign maintains, without evidence, that the election was stolen. The only sign of a thaw in this position came on 23 November, when it formally consented to begin transition proceedings with the Biden campaign.
Given the unpredictable and fraught nature of US politics, it was perhaps prudent for Intel to wait a few weeks, lest it inadvertently find itself on the wrong side of a vengeful and unexpectedly re-elected Trump. As we learned in 2016, anything is possible in American democracy. ®