Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to talk semiconductors at Oregon leader summit

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — On the eve of a big gathering of business, civic and elected leaders, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was talking about semiconductors and growing Oregon’s “silicon forest.” Wyden sat down with KGW this weekend and discussed what he’ll be talking about this week at the Oregon Leadership Summit 2022.

Semiconductor research and manufacturing is a big business in Oregon and nobody’s bigger in the state than Intel.

It and other companies here are producing a product that is at the heart of modern technology, from cell phones to airliners.

We’ve heard about global shortages of the high-tech chips and Oregon’s senior senator says he wants to fix that.

Wyden said we will be talking about how the $52 billion CHIPS Act will help here at Monday’s Oregon Leadership Summit 2022 in Portland.

“My legislation that I made a part of this package provides billions of dollars for investment tax credits and this gives us a chance to really move into the big leagues in terms of manufacturing,” said Wyden, who is Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

Wyden also gave KGW early notice, of a visitor he plans to host in Oregon early next year, with an eye on growing the semiconductor business across the state.

“That the Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is willing to come out and look at how Oregon is really moving ahead in semiconductors is a huge complement to our industry and I’ll be talking about that on Monday.”

Building a major interstate bridge is also big business, and plans to replace the Interstate Bridge are once again being developed. It will be a major undertaking to create a new I-5 span connecting Oregon and Washington over the Columbia River.

We just learned the price tag has gone up from about $4.8 billion, to as much as $7.5 billion. KGW asked the senator if it’s still worth it, and if so how much federal dollars should be spent on it.

Wyden did not offer a dollar amount but did say, “We’re already starting to dig into these new numbers that came out, it’s just a couple of days ago we’ve had them. We know that you can’t have big league quality of life with little league infrastructure so it’s my job to make sure that we have these infrastructure reforms and that we also use a sharp pencil to protect taxpayers.”

The senator also addressed some big illegal business: the massive epidemic of catalytic converter thefts in Oregon and across the country.

In August KGW reported on a major catalytic converter theft ring centered in Washington county but operating throughout the west– responsible for stealing tens of thousands of catalytic converters worth 22 million dollars.

Wyden says legislation he’s introduced with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar would require manufacturers to stamp vin numbers on the expensive exhaust system component, improve record keeping and standards for purchasers of used catalytic converters. It would also codify the theft as a criminal offense nationally.

“I think there needs to be real consequences, criminal penalties for ripping people off,” said Wyden. “There’s also an interstate component that I’m concerned about because it looks like there’s some sophisticated gangs and they just move all up and down the west coast and try and try and offload these parts and  make a quick buck.”

After a brief few days in Oregon, Wyden heads back to Washington. As chair of the senate finance committee, he said there is work to do to close out the year.

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