Intel's decision to double down on its investment in Leixlip, Co Kildare, with the creation of 1,600 additional permanent high-tech jobs (and 5,000 construction roles) has provided a welcome shot in the arm for Ireland Inc at this time of Level 5 restrictions in the Covid-19 pandemic.
This investment is designed to bring Intel's latest generation 7nm-process technology to Europe to "drive economic growth in the region", according to Intel Ireland general manager Eamonn Sinnott.
The news came on the same day that Intel announced plans to spend $20 billion on two new manufacturing factories (or fabs) in Arizona, as part of its strategy for manufacturing, innovation and product leadership.
Intel was dealt a major blow last year when Apple announced that three new Mac computers would be powered by its own M1 chip instead of by Intel processors. This ended a 15-year run in which Intel processors powered Apple's laptops and desktop computers.
This latest plan signals Intel’s intention to find a new path to growth, with a wave of expansions to support a new “foundry” business that will make chips for other companies.
Intel has been good for Ireland and vice versa. It first located here in 1989, investing in the region of $22 billion here in the intervening years building up world-class manufacturing, research and design facilities. It currently employs about 4,900 workers here.
For the company, Ireland has provided a bridge into the EU, a low corporate tax rate, and a pool of talented and highly skilled employees.
There is one potential fly in the ointment to this ambitious expansion plan in the Republic. Planning documents for expansion were submitted by Intel in early 2019, with the company subsequently receiving approval from An Bord Pleanála. A legal challenge was then brought by a local landowner, Thomas Reid, and a full court hearing of this case is expected later this year. There is a lot riding on this case.