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Getting to Know Your Designer
In this issue, we examine how fabs work with their design customers, educating them on the critical elements of fabrication needed to be successful, as well as the many tradeoffs involved. How well do you really know your customer? What makes for a closer, more synchronized working relationship?
In this issue, the biggest names in PCB manufacturing share their economic outlook for the upcoming year and beyond. As you will see, they were all bullish on our industry, but there was some apprehension as well. No one wants to get burned by another the supply chain disruption.
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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Preeya Kuray
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Material Insight: A Conversation with Congressman Blake Moore
On May 11, 2023, Reps. Blake Moore (R-UT) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Protecting Circuit Boards and Substrates (PCB) Act to Congress. This bipartisan legislation aims to support and incentivize American PCB manufacturing through the following stipulations:
- Provide a 25% tax credit for the purchase or acquisition of American-made PCBs.
- Establish a financial assistance program, modeled on the CHIPS for America Act, for American facilities manufacturing or researching PCBs.
- Authorize appropriations of $3 billion to carry out the program.
In October, I had the great pleasure of discussing the bipartisan Protecting Circuit Boards and Substrates Act with Congressman Moore, who represents Utah’s First Congressional District. He shared his thoughts on how supporting and investing in the domestic PCB industry can help bolster American security.
Preeya Kuray: Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us today. The Protecting Circuit Boards and Substrates Act is bipartisan legislation that allocates for investment in domestic PCB manufacturing facilities and provides tax incentives to companies that purchase or acquire domestic PCBs. What was it about the PCB industry that compelled you to introduce this law to Congress?
Blake Moore: I have seen the United States and our allies make headway on something critically important for our national security: rejecting Huawei (the Chinese telecommunications firm) from infiltrating and entering our market. From an intelligence perspective, this was not about rejecting the latest foreign technology. This legislature came from a place of rejecting the development of infrastructure and telecommunication capabilities outside the United States from a nation that we are often adversarial with. The United States used to hold a huge market share of global PCB manufacturing, but we have gradually ceded a huge portion of that to the Chinese market. I believe that is dangerous and that we need to pull that market back. The best way to do that is to manufacture the most sensitive defense-related PCBs in the U.S. We have a model for it, and we have the need for it.
Kuray: So, this legislation came from a standpoint of bolstering American security?
Moore: Definitely, and with a secondary interest of shoring up PCB manufacturing and pulling the market share back to the U.S. economy for growth. I would want more of our commercial world to engage in PCBs manufactured in the U.S. and our ally nations.
Kuray: How did the PCB Act come to fruition? Most of our readers have a technical background within the PCB industry but are not necessarily well versed on technology-related government affairs. The legislative aspect is of great interest to our community.
Moore: In addition to what we discussed (where national security concerns have been a large driver), we worked closely with the Printed Circuit Board Association of America (PCBAA). Once we identified what the legislation would look like (tax incentives for U.S.-made PCBs and investments in infrastructure), the next level was to gain Congressional support, which stemmed largely from my work on the Armed Services Committee and expanding it from there. Congress is a funny place. It is difficult to implement legislation when there are still so many other things going on. But supporting PCBs makes sense. This legislature is bipartisan, and people understand its importance. Because this is a problem that has developed and grown over the last 30 years, we can’t solve it all today. But what we can do is create an opportunity for small success by establishing a focus area and then building out from there.
Kuray: The PCB Act is modeled after the CHIPS Act, which includes incentives for R&D as well as programs to increase the work force and create jobs. In the 1980s, the PCB industry in the United States was at its peak, having 30% of the global market share1. Over the past 30 years, PCB manufacturing gradually shifted from the United States to overseas. Will there be any legislation in the PCB Act to help bolster the PCB workforce development in manufacturing?
Moore: Look at this PCB legislation as part of the larger effort of the CHIPS Act. I like the PCB Act more than CHIPS because I think it can be more targeted and you can experience more success in an earlier timeframe. To answer your question, yes, there will be investment in the infrastructure. The general fund will go to building in the equipment, investing in workforce, and getting other infrastructure in place. Then it will be directed toward incentivizing buying. There will be tax incentives for those that are purchasing from U.S. PCB manufacturers. When you look at that opportunity for a tax incentive for a broader potential customer base, there is real potential. For example, a company in my district needs more workforce for the volume of work that they can do. If the government incentivizes more customers, we can grow those businesses more quickly. They already have the factories and facilities that are needed to scale more quickly. All things being equal, people would purchase from a U.S. manufacturer, so to what extent can we achieve economic growth through tax incentives? Ultimately, going in that direction is where the success of this act comes from: investing in both the building and the buying.
Kuray: Where does the PCB Act stand now?
Moore: A markup on this bill has not yet been scheduled, but I am working diligently in the meantime to garner more support for this important effort.
1. “Leadership Lost: Rebuilding the U.S. Electronics Supply Chain,” by Joe O’Neil, ipc.org.
This column originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of PCB007 Magazine.