Job creation and economic development: Wolfspeed’s impact on Chatham County

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – In a presentation on Thursday at 79 Degrees West at Mosaic, Ashley Evans, the Sr. Manager of Talent Acquisition and a nine-year veteran at Wolfspeed, shared insights into the world of Wolfspeed and its groundbreaking work in silicon carbide technology. As the industry leader in silicon carbide, Wolfspeed is making waves with its vertically integrated approach, challenging traditional semiconductor norms. From the science behind silicon carbide to the global expansion plans and a commitment to diversity and community impact, Evans covered it all during her presentation.

Watch Ashley’s Evans Wolfspeed presentation on YouTube

Unveiling Silicon Carbide: The Ideal Semiconductor

Silicon carbide, hailed as the ideal semiconductor by William Shockley, one of the inventors of the solid-state transistor, has long been overshadowed by silicon’s dominance. Despite its superior electrical and physical properties, silicon became the semiconductor of choice due to its cost-effectiveness and ease of processing. However, Wolfspeed is changing the game by establishing itself as the frontrunner in silicon carbide technology. Evans emphasized the complexity of growing silicon carbide crystals, equating it to rocket science, as it involves heating materials to temperatures half that of the surface of the Sun.

Innovation and Leadership

Wolfspeed’s achievements are not just confined to rhetoric. The company introduced the world’s first commercially available fully qualified silicon carbide MOSFET and currently manufactures 60% of the world’s silicon carbide. What sets Wolfspeed apart is its vertical integration, a rarity in the semiconductor industry. From growing silicon carbide crystals to producing the end device, Wolfspeed controls every step of the process. Evans proudly announced the accomplishment of 10-plus trillion hours of device operation in the field, underscoring the reliability and quality of Wolfspeed’s products.

Global Expansion and Capacity Growth

Wolfspeed’s success is not confined to the United States; it has a global footprint. Evans revealed ambitious expansion plans, with a 24% annual increase in revenue from 2022 to 2023. The company has doubled its qualified products from the Mohawk Valley Fab and announced a substantial $6.5 billion investment in capacity expansion worldwide. Notable deposits from Renasas and Apollo Credit Group will support these global endeavors, cementing Wolfspeed’s position as a key player in the semiconductor industry.

Geographical Presence and Facilities

Wolfspeed’s facilities span across the United States, with a significant presence in North Carolina, New York, and Texas. The company also extends its reach into Europe, with sales and marketing operations in Central Europe and Munich. Evans mentioned the diverse locations where Wolfspeed operates, emphasizing the importance of regional sales and marketing offices. The company’s commitment to strategic locations aligns with its goal of being the premier silicon carbide partner globally.

Building on Legacy: John Palmer Manufacturing Center

Evans touched upon Wolfspeed’s commitment to honoring its late founding member, John Palmour. The company is expanding its existing footprint at the Durham Materials facility and constructing the John Palmour Manufacturing Center for Silicon Carbide. This center will play a pivotal role in Wolfspeed’s continued growth and innovation, paying homage to the visionary who played a significant role in shaping the company’s legacy.

Architectural rendering of the new John Palmour Manufacturing Center for Silicon Carbide in Chatham County

Jobs, Training, and Community Engagement

The announcement of Wolfspeed’s new facility in Chatham County brings with it the promise of job creation. Evans outlined the timeline for the facility, detailing the installation of tools in February 2024 and production commencement in early 2025. The company aims to hire 900 people by 2030, contributing to the region’s economic development.

Addressing the question of job qualifications, Evans clarified that a minimum requirement includes a bachelor’s degree in engineering. However, entry-level positions that do not necessitate a degree will also be available. Additionally, Wolfspeed is committed to hiring locally, emphasizing the importance of being part of the community and contributing to its growth.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Cornerstone of Wolfspeed’s Culture

Jess Evans, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Wolfspeed, took the stage to shed light on the company’s commitment to fostering an inclusive culture. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a vital role in Wolfspeed’s internal culture. These groups, led by passionate employees, focus on creating an inclusive mindset, driving the company toward becoming a world-class employer. The commitment to diversity extends beyond internal initiatives, with Wolfspeed engaging in external partnerships to attract and retain diverse talent.

Social Impact: Closing the Opportunity Gap

Wolfspeed doesn’t just aim to be a technological leader; it strives to be a responsible corporate citizen. The company’s social impact initiatives focus on three pillars: STEM education, food and hunger relief, and housing relief. By addressing these areas, Wolfspeed aims to contribute to closing the opportunity gap and ensuring that individuals, especially in the communities where it operates, have the resources needed for success.

Training for the Future: Central Carolina Community College Partnership

To ensure a skilled workforce for its new facility, Wolfspeed is partnering with Central Carolina Community College to establish a state-of-the-art training facility. This initiative, set to be operational by early 2025, demonstrates Wolfspeed’s commitment to investing in the local community and providing the necessary training for individuals to thrive in the semiconductor industry.

Ashley Evans’s presentation provided an overview of Wolfspeed’s achievements, aspirations, and its commitment to technological innovation, community engagement, and diversity. As Wolfspeed continues to push the boundaries of silicon carbide technology, its impact will not only be felt in the semiconductor industry but also in Chatham County.

Watch Ashley Evans talks about Wolfspeed in Chatham County – 2.7.24

00:15 Wolfspeed is the industry leader in silicon carbide technology.

  • Silicon carbide is considered the ideal semiconductor due to its electrical and physical properties, but silicon has been dominant for decades.
  • Wolfspeed has become the industry leader in silicon carbide by achieving technological advancements, producing 60% of the world’s silicon carbide, and achieving 10+ trillion device hours in the field.

02:35 Wolfspeed is a vertically integrated semiconductor company with a focus on silicon carbide.

  • They handle every step of the process, from growing silicon carbide crystals to packaging the chips into devices for different applications.
  • Wolfspeed has seen significant growth in annual revenue, doubled its qualified products, and announced substantial capacity expansion efforts globally.

04:48 Wolfspeed is expanding with new facilities and epic footprint, focusing on silicon carbide technology.

  • Expanding existing footprint and building the John Palmour manufacturing center for silicon carbide in honor of John Palmour.
  • Ramping the world’s first 200mm silicon carbide Fab and establishing a multi-site epic footprint facility, with a focus on automotive market applications and the superiority of silicon carbide over silicon.

07:14 Wolfspeed focuses on talent acquisition, retention, culture, and social impact.

  • Talent acquisition: Attracting diverse and top-tier talent to remain a powerhouse in the semiconductor space.
  • Culture and social impact: Removing barriers, supporting and interacting with the community to promote success.

09:28 Employee resource groups and social impact pillars drive our culture and community engagement

  • Employee resource groups play a crucial role in shaping our culture and success.
  • Our social impact pillars focus on closing opportunity gaps in STEM education, food and hunger relief, and housing relief.

11:47 Wolfspeed is bringing 18,000 jobs to Chatham County by 2030.

  • The facility timeline: announcement in September 2022, construction started in 2023, hiring 154 people by January 2024, installation of first tools in February 2024, production to begin in early 2025.
  • Key job categories include manufacturing, requiring different levels of education and experience.

14:00 Responsibilities in the process area

  • Qualifications and monitoring of tools, process control, troubleshooting, and material inspection.
  • Equipment maintenance, electromechanical work, automation repair, facility maintenance and security services.

16:13 Wolfspeed prioritizes safety and workforce development.

  • Wolfspeed prioritizes security and emergency response to protect intellectual and physical property as well as ensure worker safety.
  • Wolfspeed partners with Central Carolina Community College to provide customized training for local workforce development, with a new facility expected to be online by early 2025.