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What will IBM's investment in research mean to Vt. plant? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

What will IBM's investment in research mean to Vt. plant?

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ESSEX JCT., Vt. -

The goal behind IBM's plan to invest $3 billion in research and development over the next five years is to develop next- generation cutting-edge chips.

"This is a good time for them to reorganize and reassess and rein in economically as they look toward the future," said Karina Mitchell of CBS News.

It's one of Big Blue's biggest research initiatives ever and will focus on the creation of smaller chips that boost computing speeds while consuming less energy. But business experts say it appears IBM will leave the manufacturing of these chips to someone else.

"The company wants to focus on smaller more powerful chips that they can integrate into technology that already exists. The sale of the manufacturing arm would allow them to fund further development in this regard," said Mitchell.

That someone else could be GlobalFoundries. It's the leading candidate to purchase IBM's chipmaking division, including the one in Essex Junction. GlobalFoundries' closest plant is in Malta, New York, about three hours from Essex Junction. It's growing fast and already partners with IBM on business ventures and has employees based in Essex Junction.

Reporter Darren Perron: What do you think this could mean for IBM's manufacturing facilities like the one here in Essex Junction, Vermont?

Karina Mitchell: Clearly it's not going to be great news. As you know with reports, Essex Junction has already lost hundreds of jobs in IBM layoffs and it's vulnerable right now if the chipmaking is divested by the company.

But other industry experts say GlobalFoundries' familiarity with the plant, its proximity to Malta, Vermont's focus on renewable energy-- technology GlobalFoundries is tapping into-- and a highly skilled workforce already in place in Essex could be good news for Vermont if the plant is purchased.

"The people working there are very talented and very hard working. Hopefully, talent that's there will be used," Mitchell said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, released a statement saying, "The announcement that IBM plans to invest $3 billion in research and development in the coming years is welcome news. It's not clear what, if any, impact this announcement will have on the Vermont plant. Regardless, the investment signals that IBM is positioning itself for the next generation of microchip development and production, which is good news for the strength of the company, the future of its workers, and IBM's contribution to the national economy."

GlobalFoundries employs more than 2,000 people now and is expected to employ 4,500 by the end of next year. The company is also recruiting builders for its ever-growing campus. It's even reaching out to workers in Vermont.

And the company confirms that it recently hired a senior IBM executive at the East Fishkill plant to work at GlobalFoundries in Malta.

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