Chicago-based NHanced Semiconductors plans to invest $152 million in renovating a Cook Medical facility in Bloomington, creating at least 250 high-wage jobs.
The company intends to turn the mostly vacant Cook property, located at 301 N. Curry Pike, into a microelectronics manufacturing and packaging facility. It will lease the building from Cook. Annual salaries are planned to average about $100,000.
Founder and President Bob Patti estimates the company will grow 350% to 400% within the next year as the semiconductor industry increases its focus on innovation and specialty production.
“Our market demand is moving way faster than the ability to build new buildings,” he said.
The company is in the midst of building a fabrication facility at the WestGate One campus with several partners, located inside the WestGate@Crane Technology Park in Odon.
Ground was broken on the campus in November 2022. A company spokesperson said NHanced contributed to the total $236 million investment to build and equip a 150,000-square-foot plant.
The company said it would create up to 413 jobs for its production at the Odon facility. Due to supply chain delays, the production launch date was pushed back to 2026.
NHanced is essentially in a different market than major semiconductor companies, Patti said. The firm is a low-volume producer, which allows it to work on more specialized chips at lower development costs.
“It’s funny, we don’t really compete because my customers don’t ask for enough material to be of interest to them, and their customers have way too much volume for me to be interested in too,” he said.
The company’s niche is advanced packaging, which essentially means they “stack” chips to improve power and efficiency.
They don’t build those chips, Patti said, but rather, NHanced makes minuscule optimizations within the chips to make them faster and use less power.
“If we can do this advanced packaging for smaller development costs and more quickly, it means that you can actually build smaller quantities of parts that are targeted at markets cost-effectively,” Patti said.
In 2016, the company spun off from Tezzaron Semiconductor Corp., which Patti also founded. His companies have produced these optimized chips for about 20 years, he said, but the industry has been slow to catch on.
However, he said the industry is now evolving to accept new innovation to lower costs and efficiently power more complex products, a turn he called “the underpinning of a revolution” in the industry.
“We have been pioneers in this and have been at it a long time,” Patti said. “I like to say we’ve become a 20-year overnight success.”
Since splitting off, he said, NHanced has grown about 15% to 20% a year. But Patti expects about four-fold growth this year.
The company’s customers tend to be from the medical, industrial and scientific industries, he said, but also include those in the automotive and government sectors.
The new Bloomington facility will be very similar to one NHanced already has in North Carolina, Patti said, but it will have a significantly larger capacity.
The production will also be different from the Crane operation, which Patti said is focused on older technology and simpler chips.
Amid the Crane expansion, Patti found the largely unused Cook building with a clean room. That meant his company did not need to wait for a factory to be built.
It also is a few hours from the firm’s home base in Chicago and just up the road from Crane.
The location is planned to be a 24/7 operation, adding new shifts as equipment is installed and people are hired.
“It’s something that we could finish outfitting and move into in a matter of months, rather than waiting another two years to get into a factory—because I have customers that need capacity now,” he said. “It was the right place, right time.”
Since the industry often deals with price tags in the billions, Patti said advanced packaging lowers the barrier to entry for smaller companies and startups. It will result in more innovation and better addressing the needs of the market, he said.
“With advanced packaging, you can get those kinds of benefits in terms of speed and power and performance by assembling existing chips in a lot of cases, or lots of small chips together,” he said. “You can do it for, instead of $2 billion for the design, maybe it costs you $2 million for the design.”
The facility could also be home to startups in the industry as well, Patti said, which could make it more cost-effective for innovation and developments in a tight industry.
“I believe that some of those semiconductor companies are going to want to locate next to the factory,” he said. “And if the factory is in Bloomington, we are going to attract that kind of halo of other new semiconductor companies that are based on advanced packaging, and utilizing that.”
The region and state are also supportive of the venture. The state has provided incentives for the Crane operation, and Patti said the company is seeking similar discussions now. Monroe County also approved a 10-year tax abatement for all of the personal property taxes.