Intel: One of the eight buildings on the Chandler Intel campus (Photo by RJ Watson 2011)
5000 W Chandler Boulevard, Chandler, AZ 85226
As one of the leading high-technology companies in Chandler, Intel has sparked the birth of the “Silicon Desert” (Hedding). The nickname, “Silicon Desert,” signifies the shift from an agricultural town to an industrial economic city. Built in 1980, Intel currently employs 9,700 employees, making it the second largest Intel site and the largest employer in Chandler (Yantis). In 1992, the company became the largest semiconductor supplier in the world, while continuing to stimulate the job economy in the great-Phoenix area (Intel Museum).
Along with Chandler’s Microchip and Motorola, the success of Intel brought many prospective employees and families to Chandler from different national and international backgrounds. The surge of job opportunities and transforming economy of Chandler correlate with the expanding Asian population and the emergence of Chandler as an Asian “ethnoburb.”
An “ethnoburb” may be defined as a multiethnic suburb, which conceptualizes its formation as a result of place, specifically processes of racialization (Spatial Transformation 74). Geographer and scholar Wei Li discusses two ways Asians have inhabited high-technology regions, akin to cities such as Chandler.
First, high-technology industries, including Intel, favor building industrial sites in suburban areas, as opposed to central cities. During the 1970s and 1980s, central cities were viewed as too fiscally and bureaucratically burdensome (Asian Americans 120). This coincides with the establishment of the Chandler Intel site in 1980. At the time, Chandler offered a location within close proximity of the Phoenix metropolitan area, as well as large parcels of undeveloped land.
Second, Li states, “the high-technology industry attracted large numbers of wealthy and middle-class Asian Americans who possessed the requisite capital and education to participate in the industry” (Asian Americans 120). Similarly, the effect of building an Intel in Chandler may attract prospective employees who possessed the wealth to relocate, as well as an educational background in engineering (Scott). These prerequisites can include the Asian Americans that fit this unique intersection of education and class.
Chandler city engineer Shicheng Tao identifies the shift of Asian populations to Chandler by stating, ‘Many people have come here from other countries and other states like California or on the East Coast. They're purchasing property and bringing their families.’ Meanwhile, Omar Hameed, the vice president of the Pakistan Information and Cultural Organization, recognizes the specific population of Asians that possess the necessary skills. He states, ‘A lot of Asian members of our community are highly trained and highly desirable for Intel so a lot of them work there and the supporting companies around Intel (Johnson).
The Asian American population in Chandler has increased from 4.3 percent in 2000 to 8.2 percent in 2010. This population increase correlates with data of Asians comprising 0.5 percent of Arizona in 1960, 0.9 percent in 1970, 0.8 percent in 1980, and 1.5 percent in 1990 (US Census). Currently, 19,401 people who identify as Asian live in Chandler, per the 2010 Census. However, this population increase is only partly due to companies such as Intel.
Along with Asian microchip workers, soon followed the migration and immigration of Asians seeking to establish ethnic-owned and operated businesses (Spatial Transformation 77). There is a specific need for business that provides certain cultural services and goods. For example, Meng Truong, owner of Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket, discusses the development of his business as ‘selling a few hard-to-find Asian food items’ in 1990 to a 52,000 square foot location in 1999. This development may be a response to the demands of culturally specific goods by the Asian families who move to Chandler.
Intel has sparked the birth of the “Silicon Desert,” as well as the birth of an Asian “ethnoburb.” This particular “ethnoburb” has created an Asian spatial imaginary of high-technology workers and ethnic-operated businesses. The conception of an “ethnoburb” is relevant to current discussion as Intel plans to invest 5 billion dollars in a new Arizona factory, expected to be open by 2013 (Randazzo). The expansion of the new factory would call for 1,000 new Intel employees. As noted by Wei Li, the impact of an “ethnoburb” can provide suburban opportunities to many Asian families but the city must adjust to the rapid shift in racial demographics and changing landscapes (Opportunities 180). With these new developments, the question becomes, how will this new Intel site impact the city of Chandler as an Asian “ethnoburb?”
- RJ Watson and Geralden Del Rosario
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Li, Wei. "Opportunities and Challenges for Ethnoburbs" Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America. University of Hawai'i, 2009. 180-183. Print.
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