Serving as a catalyst in advancing the United States’ role in semiconductor manufacturing, the CHIPS Act is propelling top global manufacturers to expand operations domestically. Currently, funding is available for these companies without having early engagement from general contractors on future build plans but involving contractors early in the application process can ensure requirements are attainable in construction and enhance the probability of funding being secured as efficiently as possible.
Ranking third in Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) 2023 Industry Rankings for Semiconductor Manufacturing, JE Dunn’s presence in the market includes over $2 billion in contracted revenue in the U.S. With nearly 90% of JE Dunn’s semiconductor manufacturing work coming from continued work programs with repeat clients, the firm understands that maintaining continued alignment with clients is crucial to being an indispensable business partner.
Following the enactment of the CHIPS Act in August 2022, JE Dunn recognized the absence of general contractors within the process. As a result, JE Dunn allocated internal personnel to become subject matter experts on the new law. These subject matter experts attended webinars through third parties, including SEMI and grant writing specialists, to educate themselves on the application process and requirements impacting construction. By developing a deeper understanding of the CHIPS Act internally, JE Dunn was able to identify opportunities in the process to support its semiconductor manufacturing clients. Initiating early contractor involvement has helped clients digest an influx of information being sent from the government and boosted funding certainty. Moreover, most states have adopted their own laws to allocate funding towards semiconductor manufacturing projects as it is prerequisite for companies to be awarded funding by the federal government. JE Dunn has researched each state where its clients are located to help support their specific state funding requirements.
JE Dunn’s commitment to being an educated partner in the CHIPS Act process extends beyond its subject matter experts. Members of the broader leadership team, including compliance, human resources, legal, procurement, community impact, and diversity, equity, and inclusion are invovled in its CHIPS Act initiatives. By engaging the leadership team who oversees strategic planning, resource allocation, and technology adoption, JE Dunn can ensure it is well-versed in the CHIPS Act and deliver on what is promised.
A pioneer in these efforts, JE Dunn currently supports five confidential semiconductor manufacturing clients in various stages of the CHIPS Act award timeline. Involvement has included assistance with the statement of interest, pre-application, and application and will extend through construction with the implementation and tracking of required metrics. JE Dunn is hosting weekly meetings with clients dedicated to navigating these early stages of the CHIPS Act to ensure long-term success.
Workforce development requirements have proven to present significant challenges for clients in the application process. Its program priorities include creating more jobs, recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining a diverse workforce, involving women and disadvantaged individuals, engaging with community partners, and prioritizing childcare. Without contractor input, creating a project specific workforce development plan that guarantees compliance during construction is difficult. Therefore, JE Dunn has developed a document for its clients outlining its executive leadership team, compliance with federal labor laws, approach to recruiting and training a diverse workforce, inclusion of minority, women and small businesses, access to affordable childcare and housing, flexible work hours, and ability to assess workforce projections on projects. This 25+ page document serves as a tool to foster transparency and help clients meet the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) to increase their likelihood in receiving funding and set the project up for success early.
While JE Dunn’s CHIPS Act Construction Requirements document was originally created for a single purpose, the workforce development program priorities highlight industry issues. Among these, is the lack of women in construction. JE Dunn has addressed this challenge with heightened recruitment efforts and the utilization of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), including Moment Connect, JE Dunn’s Women’s Networking Group, to support retention. However, the CHIPS Act revealed a hidden barrier to increasing the number of women in construction with its emphasis on providing accessible and affordable childcare. JE Dunn has begun exploring partnerships with childcares close to jobsites in multiple states where our clients are located, including Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Arizona, and New York. Recognizing its impact on achieving a diverse workforce nationally, JE Dunn will continue to expand these efforts.
As JE Dunn moves from the plan-creation phase into the implementation and compliance phases of the CHIPS Act, identifying best practices, like access to childcare, to implement into its other markets will be valuable for JE Dunn as well as the construction industry. The long-term growth of the construction industry, specifically semiconductor manufacturing, will be a result of the CHIPS Act. In such a fast-paced market, it is important to stay ahead.