Thursday night, Alice and I attended a celebratory dinner hosted by Intel Corporation at its auditorium in the RA3 building on its Hillsboro, Ore. campus.
We and approximately 450 specially chosen neighbors feasted on turkey (with vegetarian options available), mashed potatoes, green beans and specialty flavored waters prepared by Bon Appétit, a Hillsboro food management company exclusively created to serve Intel.
Pies and cakes were also served, but the food preparers ran out before all attendees could get to the serving area. For some, it didn’t matter, since a large supply of freshly harvested blackberries and blueberries with homemade whipped cream became a welcome substitution. Some people who gobbled up the pie commented the fruit was even tastier.
The occasion commemorated Intel’s just-completed D1X building. The new facility will house a multi-billion-dollar research factory, which Intel discovered was vital to expanding growth. Actual physical construction of the building began in May 2013 and was just completed, according to Anne Marie McSwiggen, general manager of technical development, in a 15-minute commentary embracing self-effacing Scottish humor. She summarized her remarks by thanking the audience “for being such fabulous neighbors to us.”
Intel is in a good mood, since Washington County and the City of Hillsboro approved up to $2 billion of tax breaks for $100 billion worth of equipment the chip manufacturer buys over the next 30 years. The incentive is part of the area’s continuing Strategic Investment Program embraced by state lawmakers in 1993, after Intel began moving its major operations to Oregon in 1974. Considering how quickly yesterday’s computers reach the trash heap, this approach to embracing computer manufacturing seems to make sense. Property tax levies on company property and buildings remain at full value, too; however, the formula does not earmark funding for public schools, leaving a bad taste in administrators’ mouths.
The fourth annual feast was Intel’s acknowledgment that its neighbors’ civility muted objections to the noise and traffic attendant to significant construction. Construction appeared to be effectively managed throughout, since the only objections noted at the dinner revolved around Intel’s envious financial health.
One of the perks about living 15 miles east of Portland is Hillsboro’s proximity to Intel Corporation. Intel is indeed a gorilla in the neighborhood.
With 17,500 employees locally, Hillsboro can be viewed as a company city, since it’s larger than a town. And because Intel has experienced dynamic profit growth since moving the crux of its operations here, the beneficial ripple effect causes Hillsboro’s affluence to be felt throughout all of Oregon.
Intel doesn’t speak about its role with secret governmental work as it does about private enterprise. Recent revelations about foreign cyber hacking attacks can only spur residents’ imaginations about what goes on inside its walls – and its spectacular skywalk from the fourth floor of its garage to the RA4 building – but one thing is certain. Security is tight, yet invisible.
Conversations with Intel’s corporate affairs people were congenial and welcoming, but we could not help observing a high degree of sophisticated regimentation in their responses. After all, Intel’s Oregon payroll is $2.8 billion (including benefits). And the world outside has become foreboding.
The computer chip manufacturer’s neighborly self-serving ambience makes the area a safe place in which to live. In retrospect, therefore, the company’s pre-Thanksgiving dinner was a great unofficial welcome to the City of Hillsboro.