TSMC won't be making chips in Arizona on schedule. The Taiwan firm has delayed the start of 4-nanometer chip production at its first Phoenix, Arizona factory from 2024 to 2025. There aren't enough skilled workers available to complete construction on time, according to Chairman Mark Liu. The company is considering loaning technicians from its home country to help complete the project.
The Arizona facility is a highlight of the CHIPS and Science Act President Biden signed into law last year. The measure is meant to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and includes $52.7 billion in funding and tax credits for companies building factories stateside. TSMC seeks $15 billion in tax credits for its two Arizona plants, although it anticipates investing a total $40 billion in the state.
The federal government isn't immediately concerned about the worker shortfall. In a statement, White House representative Olivia Dalton says provisions in the CHIPS and Science Act will get the "workforce we need."
The delay still poses problems for tech companies dependent on TSMC's manufacturing, most notably Apple. Future iPhones and Macs will use 4nm and 3nm chips made at the Phoenix plants. If the delay holds, Apple may have to either stall product launches or lean on alternative manufacturers. Intel is pouring $20 billion into two Arizona facilities due to start chip production in 2024, but those won't necessarily be available for Apple's needs.
The delay illustrates one of the key challenges of bringing more tech manufacturing to the US. While there's no shortage of money or desire, fewer workers are trained for the jobs as there are in Taiwan and other major production hubs. Apple contractor Foxconn may have an easy time finding factory workers in China, for example but they're not nearly as common in the US. Plants like the Mac Pro factory in Austin tend to focus on niche products that don't require large numbers of employees.
There's nonetheless pressure to get the TSMC factories up and running. Moves like this are not only expected to boost the US economy, but to diversify manufacturing away from China. The effort could address issues with labor conditions and limit problems if US-China relations deteriorate. They won't solve every issue (many components and raw materials also come from China), but they may reduce the fallout from political drama.