Hi-tech plant pushes Penang into future
WHEN it comes to developments in industry, Malaysia takes pride in its belief that it will be on a par with most Western nations by the turn of the century.
According to a government plan, it will achieve developed nation status by the year 2020.
In its bid to provide an inviting climate to foreign investors, the country has succeeded in attracting a wide range of overseas manufacturing concerns that now produce more equipment in Malaysia than they do in their home countries.
The bulk of Malaysia's industrial exports come from the electrical and electronics assembly industries, textiles and a handful of resource-based industries.
One area that has seen significant growth has been the hi-tech manufacturing industry. Penang is turning out to be Malaysia's version of Silicon Valley.
Among the big name multinationals that have set up in Penang is Intel, the United States-based microchip maker.
Intel holds the leading share in the the international chip-making business, producing the microprocessors used in the majority of IBM-compatible personal computers worldwide.
With a total manufacturing space of 353,000 square feet, Intel's Penang operation has been the company's first offshore assembly plant since 1972 and its first offshore test centre since 1978.
Intel's total investment in its Penang facilities reached US$280 million last year.
This, if nothing else, is a good indication of the value Intel placed on its Malaysian connection, a company spokesman said.
Occupying a total land area of more than 20 hectares, Intel Penang employs 2,700 staff, making it one of the biggest multinationals with operations in Malaysia. This has grown from less than 500 in 1972.
Besides its facilities in Penang, Intel has test centres in Manila and Japan and three in the US. The company's other assembly plants are in Manila, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Oregon.
Yet, according to an Intel spokesman, its Penang operation produces most of the equipment that supplies the Asia-Pacific region, one of the company's largest markets.