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SciTech Festival gives inside look at Chandler's high-tech industries

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Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 3:00 pm

Hidden beneath Chandler, 45 miles of pipeline snakes underground to deliver liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon to the city's growing semiconductor industry.

But the lifeline to so many of the city's high-tech industries is largely unknown to the public.

Chandler is working to raise awareness of that pipeline and other scientific work under way this week, with three days of events showcasing technology.

The events are part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, which includes activities around the state into March. This is the festival's first year in Arizona, and Chandler Councilman Rick Heumann said the city has worked since this summer to boost awareness.

"I'd love to see it go on every year and just build from there," he said. "There's lots of companies in Chandler that people don't know about."

Chandler's activities include tours of an Intel Corp. facility, Microchip, the Gangplank incubator and the Air Products facility where the liquid gas pipeline originates.

Just the Air Products facility gives a glimpse of the scale of technology in Chandler, Heumann said. Massive tanks chill the gasses at minus-330 degrees, and the company is Salt River Project's second-largest electricity customer.

One of Air Products' customers is Intel, where a $5 billion expansion got national attention during President Barack Obama's visit last month.

Heumann said without the city planning features like the pipeline, Intel wouldn't be able to locate in Chandler.

"The amount of trucks that would have to run to Intel would be almost nonstop, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, without all the lines that were put in years ago," he said.

The statewide festival comes in response to surveys showing poor recognition of how significant high-tech businesses are in Arizona, festival director Jeremy Babendure said.

"Our broader goal five years down the road is to help rebrand the state to it's clear that science and technology is what we do here," he said.

Events are targeting kids and adults.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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