As the world's largest semiconductor company set the cornerstone for its new 'Fab 28' production facility in Kiryat Gat, Intel Corp. on Tuesday revealed its that exports from Israel rose 1.8 percent to $1.19 billion in 2005. Intel, which first came to Israel in 1974, now has six development centers and two production plants in the country. Its exports, it said, made up 14% of the total electronics and information industries product sales that came out of Israel in 2005. The company also noted that it purchased $420 million from local suppliers last year. Intel expects to hire 4,400 new employees at the plant, building on its current employee base, which grew 14% to 6,700 workers during 2005. "This $3.5b. investment in the new factory reflects our long and productive relationship in Israel and is a testimony to the capabilities of our employees there and of the country," said Bob Baker, general manager of Intel's technology and manufacturing group at the groundbreaking ceremony. "Over the period of developing this factory and bringing it to production, we will be training and hiring many new employees to run the most advanced machines and technical processors anywhere in the semiconductor industry." The plant is slated for completion towards the middle of 2008, when it will start to produce 45 nanometer technology, and manufacture 300 millimeter chip slices. Intel announced in December it would build the 200,000 square meter plant next to its existing Fab 18 facility, after the Knesset Finance Committee approved a $525m. grant, or 15% of the investment, for the project. Intel also said at the time it would invest $600m. to upgrade Fab 18. "There was a serious debate in government whether to provide Intel this level of grant or not, which is unprecedented in Israel," said Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the ceremony. "When you consider that Intel will be investing close to $5b. in the country, to establish the new plant and the upgrade of the existing one, we are confident it was the right decision." Olmert identified the development of periphery areas in the northern and southern regions of the country as vital to combating the social distress that is prevalent in there. Maxine Sassberg, who will also serve as the general manager of the new factory noted that some 75% of the company's Kiryat Gat employees live in the South and that the company would continue to implement its incentive program of a monetary bonus to encourage workers to move there.