Rep. Barbara Lee tours Black-owned business, marks one year since CHIPS Act signing

East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) toured a modest office space in West Oakland to celebrate Black Business Month and to mark the one-year anniversary of the signing of the CHIPS Act. 

"I believe in bringing dollars home to my congressional district," Lee said. "We pay a lot of the taxes – a lot of innovation, creativity, manufacturing should take place in Oakland." 

Lee met with leaders of Akash Systems, a Black-owned satellite and semiconductor manufacturer, whose engineers produce chips used in nearly every modern device by using synthetically produced diamonds.

"It is able to move energy from one point to the next, faster than any material ever," said Felix Ejeckam, the co-founder, and CEO of Akash Systems. "And that’s what we make." 

Using the Earth’s most thermally conductive material, the team says the chips can withstand extreme temperatures, last longer and work more efficiently. They demonstrated for Lee using a simple example of an ice cube and one of their wafers to show the energy transfer. 

And now, Akash wants to grow in Oakland. 

"We want manufacturing to come back into our communities," Lee said. "For instance, here at Akash, manufacturing and what they’re doing will help create about 500 jobs in this great city." 

They’re asking for federal help and money from the "CHIPS and Science Act" which President Biden signed into law one year ago. 

Rep. Lee and Senators Feinstein and Padilla wrote a letter of support to the Secretary of Commerce. 

"This money would not only be transformative for Akash, it would be transformative for the community, Ejeckam said. 

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Recently, House Republicans called for a full accounting of spending from the law. 

Akash’s request comes during Black Business month and for this Black-owned company and Rep. Lee, the impact would go far beyond new jobs. 

"It’s something that inspires a lot of young kids coming along," Ejeckam said. "They want to look up to leaders in tech and STEM and see they’re represented." 

Lee is also locked in a competitive race with Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who announced she will not seek reelection in 2024. Asked about the state of her campaign, Lee said her focus, at the moment, was on the work in her district.