Osceola County in contention for federal funds to expand NeoCity semiconductor facility and more

DEC 24, 2021

Osceola County is one step closer to landing federal funds to build out semiconductor research and production capabilities at the NeoCity tech district in Kissimmee.

The county on Dec. 13 was awarded $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce for planned expansion at NeoCity, with a chance to win up to $100 million more. The money was awarded as the first phase of the federal $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. As one of 60 nationwide finalists, Osceola County moves on to the second phase, with a chance to win millions of dollars.

Labs, roads and more

Osceola County’s application, part of a joint effort with the Orlando Economic Partnership, University of Central Florida and Bridg, seeks funds for six projects that will boost infrastructure, capabilities and workforce training at NeoCity. Here are the proposed projects:

  • Expand the 109,000-square-foot Center for Neovation semiconductor manufacturing facility by 25,000 square feet.
  • Build Neovation Way Road, a new entrance road that will provide a southern entrance to NeoCity.
  • Invest in a new research and commercialization program to allow for advanced packaging of microelectronics.
  • Invest in a new digital twin simulation research program, which can be used to improve semiconductor reliability and productivity.
  • Train more workers as a way to expand a workforce development pipeline for the semiconductor industry.
  • Bolster NeoCity’s livability by growing a neighborhood revitalization model meant to address housing, education and health needs in the community.

Semiconductor research and manufacturing is an anchor industry of NeoCity, which Osceola County officials hope will create more than 100,000 mostly high-wage jobs in the next 50 years.

The only ongoing industry in NeoCity is semiconductor work undertaken by SkyWater Technology Inc., Imec USA and Bridg. The growth of the industry may create more jobs at those firms and attract more companies, especially as the U.S. faces a semiconductor shortage.

"Our selection puts us in very rare company and is proof of the significance of our long-range vision,” said Osceola Board of County Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Viviana Janer. “The research and manufacturing capabilities that have been developed at NeoCity are critically needed to strengthen our supply chain and national security efforts."

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is an American Rescue Plan program meant to strengthen regional industry clusters. Next, Osceola County will develop a proposal for the second and final phase of the competition before the March 15 deadline. The challenge will award 20 to 30 groups with $25 million-$100 million each to implement their proposals.

Growth at NeoCity

Meanwhile, Osceola County and private partners are making efforts to bring more development and jobs to NeoCity.

For example, Osceola County commissioners on Sept. 20 voted to enter negotiations to sell up to 70 acres inside NeoCity to DSUS LLC, a Duluth, Georgia-based firm related to South Korean semiconductor firm DS Semicon Co. Ltd. DSUS then plans to spend $1.2 billion to transform the land into what the county describes as a “testbed” community, with smart technology present throughout homes, hotel rooms, offices and more that would rise on the site.

In addition, Osceola County commissioners on Dec. 13 approved a collaboration agreement with Imec USA that will keep the nanoelectronics firm at NeoCity. As part of the five-year agreement, Imec’s design center will remain in NeoCity, and the county will pay Imec $3 million in research funding each year until 2026. As part of the agreement, Imec would commit to using its “best efforts” to follow a business plan that will lead to the creation of jobs at the site. Imec currently employs 17 people in Kissimmee.

Renewing the agreement with the county government “will enable us to continue working together to build a technology hub at NeoCity that can catalyze and diversify economic growth in Osceola County in the years to come,” Imec Managing Director Bert Gyselinckx previously said.

Meanwhile, Bloomington, Minnesota-based Skywater (Nasdaq: SKYT) is growing its workforce at the NeoCity site. The company this year took over operations of the Center for Neovation, with plans to create 220 jobs there by 2026. SkyWater moved into the facility after the University of Central Florida ended its financial support of the previous operator, nonprofit Bridg, and laid off most of Bridg’s staff.