Intel, the giant microchip manufacturer, is to begin preparatory work at its base in Leixlip this month in what is widely seen as a prelude to a significant expansion in capacity there.
Although the company has made no formal announcement about its plans, it is widely expected in official circles that it will move to increase manufacturing capacity at the Leixlip plant, with thousands of construction jobs created initially and hundreds of technician roles once the new facility is built.
The investment plan is likely to run into billions of euro over a period of years, as part of a programme being undertaken by the company to increase capacity worldwide.
The company confirmed this week that it was beginning "enabling work" at the Co Kildare plant this month. It already has planning permission for a new 90,000sq m facility adjacent to its existing site.
In December, the company announced plans to expand its global manufacturing capacity to meet increased demand for its microchips.
In a statement published on the company's website, general manager of manufacturing Ann Kelleher said that the increase in demand for its products was "the biggest market opportunity in Intel's history".
She said the company was "now in the early planning phase for manufacturing site expansions in Oregon, Ireland and Israel, with multi-year construction activities expected to begin in 2019."
Investing in stages
Last week, a spokesman said that Intel’s “site expansions are typically multi-year projects with investment being made in stages and continually being subject to change based on business, economic and other factors.”
However, there is a strong expectation in Government and official circles that the company is moving towards a significant expansion at the Leixlip plant this year, and the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was in the US this week meeting executives from Intel and other tech companies with operations in Ireland.
If Intel goes ahead with building the new facility in Leixlip, it could create up to 5,000 construction jobs with several hundred new staff then recruited once the plant was built and operational.
The company already employs almost 5,000 people in the State and says it has invested almost $14 billion dollars since 1989.
While there had been speculation that Intel was considering an expansion of its existing Fab 24 production facility at Leixlip – for which planning permission has already been granted – sources believe that it could signal an entirely new Fab plant for Leixlip, a move which would underpin its presence in Ireland by introducing the latest level of technology here. Typically such major expansions involve an investment of several billion euro.
Intel announced an investment of $5 billion (€4.3 billion) in its plant in Israel last May and in total invested around $15 billion (€13 billion) in its plants worldwide last year, ramping up capacity to meet a surprisingly high level of demand from the business and gaming sectors.
Intel's potential expansion plans are also understood to have been a factor in a major investment of at least €110 million announced late last year by Eirgrid, involving major investment at two sub-stations in Meath and Kildare and network improvements to meet increased demand for energy on the east coast.