UPDATE 9/27/23 10:04 a.m.: Columbus Council Tuesday night approved $1.25 million dollars to be awarded to the Chips4Chips effort to recruit semiconductor manufacturing and supply chain jobs to the region.

The economic development effort has been ongoing for about a year, led by the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley.

It is a bi-state effort and here is what United Way President and CEO Ben Moser had to say about the money council approved.

“So, the land portion of that was what was being referred to,” Moser said. “And we won’t be prepping any land outside of Muscogee County using funds that were appropriated in this vote today.”

The Chips4Chips organization will work with the city council and the Development Authority in this jobs recruitment effort.

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — An effort is well underway in the Chattahoochee Valley to bring a piece of the microchip manufacturing industry to the region.

This effort has been ongoing for about a year there are federal financial incentives to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States.

Last week, United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley President and CEO Ben Moser sat down with WRBL for an exclusive interview on the recruiting efforts and why the United Way is taking the lead on an economic development project that would traditionally fall to the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority, an arm of the city government that works out of the Chamber’s offices.

“CHIPS4Chips is an effort to bring semiconductor manufacturing and the related supply chain to the Chattahoochee Valley,” Moser said. “It’s all about reduction of poverty from the United Way’s standpoint. We were tapped by the city, by Columbus 2025, by other local stakeholders as the organization to lead a 10-year plan to reduce our poverty rate in the Chattahoochee Valley by 50 percent.”

The poverty rate — a family of four making less than roughly $26,000 — is pushing 20 percent in Columbus. That is higher than the state average and nearly double the national average.

The group will be asking the Columbus Council on Tuesday night to help fund the effort through money set aside for economic development. The city and the Development Authority receive funding from property tax revenue to fund economic development efforts. Chips 4 Chips is scheduled to appear in front of the Columbus Council. They are asking the council to allot $1.25 million dollars toward this effort. For the past year, it has been funded by private donors, including the Bradley-Turner Foundation.

A coalition of Chattahoochee Valley business, non-profit, and education leaders are working to pitch this region for semiconductor jobs. They are working with state and national consultants to try and steer the microchip industry into the region. The effort has been underway for about a year.

They are now going public with the efforts and what is needed to attract these high-paying jobs and cutting-edge industries to Columbus and the region.

Troy University Phenix City Vice Chancellor Dr. Dionne Rosser-Mims and retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Andy Hilmes are key players in the effort.

“So, this effort, the C for C effort, is important to the community because it’s about preparing the workforce for the future — and particularly our children,” Rosser-Mims said. “Our children need to be exposed to the possibilities of a high-paying job that does not necessarily require a college degree. And we have the assets in our region to support the semiconductor industry.”

Hilmes has been working on the site-selection process as well as the military component of his effort.

“The site aspect of this is actually one of our strengths,” Hilmes said. “And that is we have numerous locations on both sides of the river in Georgia and Alabama of all sizes that are conducive to and feasible for semiconductor manufacturing.”

The federal government has incentivized the efforts to bring these industries and jobs from overseas — mainly in Tiwain — back to the United States.

Hilms says that Fort Moore’s location in the region is a plus in the local recruiting effort.

“This is a national security issue because we’re really at a position strategically when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing,” Hilmes said. “A number of years ago, we allowed the majority of the industry to leave our shores. Most of it has gone to the Far East. The Far East, as you know, is a pretty contentious location right now. And we have a resurgent China that has been posturing and menacing Taiwan, which, by the way, manufactures over 80 percent of our most advanced microchips. Those go in F-35 strike fighters. We have to bring this back onshore. National security requires it.”

Rosser-Mims says there is a strong, wide-ranging educational and dual-state component to this economic development effort.

“I have never seen an effort of this nature where we have brought together groups who’ve never really worked together before in this capacity,” she said. “When I say we from an educational standpoint, we’re talking about Georgia Tech, we’ve got Auburn, we’ve got Troy, we’ve got CSU, Columbus State, we’ve got Columbus Tech, we’ve got Chattahoochee Valley Community College, Tuskegee University. And then, as I mentioned, the K through 12 sectors, unprecedented.”