How do you sell an aging microchip factory crammed with outdated technology? Not very easily.
So Intel Corp, the world’s leading chipmaker, has called in reinforcements in its bid to sell its semiconductor plant in Hudson.
Binswanger Management Corp. of Philadelphia, an international dealer in commercial and industrial real estate, said Thursday it will try shopping the Hudson campus as a biotech facility, a digital data center, or a manufacturing site for high technology hardware.
That would be a significant setback for hundreds of workers still there, because after announcing last year it was closing up shop there, Intel had been trying to find a buyer who will keep the facility running as a chip factory.
“Our goal all along was to sell it as an operating facility so our folks will have jobs,” said Intel spokeswoman Ann Hurd.
But no such buyer has emerged, and Hurd said Intel is determined to cease operations at the plant by the end of the year. Already dozens of the plant’s 700 workers have been laid off.
Located at the intersection of Interstates 290 and 495, the Hudson site is huge: more than 1.3 million square feet of office and industrial space in four buildings.
The chip factory is the largest, but another major building houses an Intel research and development operation that employs 850 people. The company said the R&D facility will continue, either onsite by renting space from a new owner, or relocated elsewhere.
The Hudson plant was originally built by Digital Equipment Corp., a now-defunct Maynard company that was once among the world’s leading computer makers, and was bought by Intel in 1997.
The plant uses older, less sophisticated chipmaking equipment, and cannot build Intel’s most sophisticated microprocessors, such as the Core, Xeon, and Atom product lines.
Instead, it produces simpler semiconductor chips for automotive entertainment systems, factory automation devices, and other lower-end applications.
Intel is holding out hopes for a buyer that needs to produce computer chips.
“You would be surprised by the number of companies that look at semiconductor factories,” Hurd said. Moreover, though the technology at the Hudson plant is mostly too old for Intel, “it’s not trailing edge for a lot of manufacturers,” Hurd said.
But Brian Matas, vice president of market research at IC Insights Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz., firm that tracks the chip industry, said it won’t be easy to find buyers that would keep Hudson running as a chipmaker unless Intel sells it at fire-sale prices.
“The number of companies that need extra capacity with older technology is pretty small,” Mantas said.
David Begelfer, chief executive of NAIOP Massachusetts, an association of commercial real estate owners, said that Intel will likely get an even lower price if it sells the facility to a company that doesn’t make chips.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of renovation for that space to be suited to a new user,” Begelfer said.
Intel could close the facility, but hold onto the property and try to get a better price.
But Begelfer said that strategy wouldn’t pay off in the Hudson area, where commercial real estate values are relatively stable.
“In two years’ time you’re not going to see a dramatic difference,” Begelfer said.