Boise based Micron to slash 10% of jobs

Micron Technology Inc., the world’s second-largest computer memory chip maker, announced on Tuesday that it is laying off 10 percent of its worldwide labor force of more than 18,000.

Associated Press Spokesman Review

It is the first layoff the Boise-based company has imposed since 1985, seven years after it was founded.

"We remain committed to the long-term growth opportunities for our company and our industry," corporate Chairman Steve Appleton said in a prepared statement. "These actions will lower our cost structure, allow us to better focus our product portfolio and continue to invest in new technology."

Appleton said the layoffs will be proportional throughout the corporate system.

Micron has about 11,000 employees in Boise, making it the state’s largest private employer and subject to about 1,100 layoffs. The company also has facilities in Utah, Virginia, Italy, Japan and Singapore.

Appleton said the company also was narrowing its product line and realigning its cost structure.

Micron stock, which stood at nearly $100 a share in late July 2001, closed down 3 cents at $7.17 a share on the New York Stock Exchange. In the past two years, the company has reported net losses of more than $1.5 billion and opened its latest fiscal year with another $315.9 million in red ink as the international chip market remained depressed.

The layoff announcement came two weeks after Micron sold $550 million in bonds to provide cash for technology spending.

A week before that, Appleton said the company misfired on a new-generation computer chip that took longer than expected to recover from.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said the news affirmed his assessment of the harsh economic realities facing business, but he expressed confidence in Micron’s future.

"Micron has demonstrated throughout challenging times that it’s a true industry leader in innovation and tenacity, and they will do it again," the governor said.

The company filed a complaint last November, accusing its South Korean competitors of receiving illegal government subsidies in 2001 and blamed its $907 million loss last year partly on the alleged unfair practices of Korea’s Hynix Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics.

But four months earlier, Micron was named in antitrust class-action lawsuit along with other chip producers for fixing the price for dynamic random access memory chips. The company denied the charge. The suit is pending.

Micron attempts to buy the chip-producing operations of Hynix fell through last spring. The deal would have catapulted Micron over Samsung Electronics to make it the world’s top chip producer.

Appleton stopped taking a salary 15 months ago and said he would not resume taking a check until the company turns a profit.


Laid-off Micron workers have prospects, but not many

Julie Howard
The Idaho Statesman

A flood of resumes is likely to swamp area businesses as early as next week as about 1,100 Micron Technology workers in the Treasure Valley lose their jobs in one of the largest single layoffs the area has ever seen.

Micron executives expected to complete the bulk of the 1,800 worldwide job cuts by the end of today, just three days after the 10 percent work force reduction was announced. Some layoffs will occur early next week to finish up the process, said Micron spokesman Dave Parker.

The memory chip manufacturer has about 11,000 of its 18,700 employees in the Treasure Valley.

Parker declined on Thursday to say how many workers have already received pink slips.

Human resources managers around the valley, such as Anne Evans of The Network Group, are gearing up for the job-seekers. Evans already has stacks of resumes, many generated from other tech firm layoffs, that she can´t match with jobs at her company.

While a regional economist said Treasure Valley businesses won´t be able to absorb all those displaced workers, some companies on Thursday said they are hiring. All are expecting to hear from Micron expatriates in the coming days and weeks.

Companies with open job rosters were interested in publicizing their positions after hearing of the large layoffs, hoping to attract talented candidates leaving the Boise semiconductor company. Organizations as varied as Hewlett-Packard Co. and the Ada County Sheriff´s Office said they are expecting to see Micron worker resumes in their systems soon.

One thing is for certain, however. The job search facing laid-off Micron workers won´t be easy.

Are there jobs out there?

“It´s a tough one right now because of the weakness in the tech sector,” said John Mitchell, western region economist for US Bancorp, based in Portland.

There were 38,000 unemployed Idahoans as of December, according to state Department of Labor statistics, and 12,700 of those people were in Ada and Canyon counties.

“We had six major layoffs in the high-tech industry in the Treasure Valley, affecting 3,700 people, between January 2001 and December 2002,” said Dwight Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Labor.

Jabil Circuit laid off its 500 workers and closed its Meridian plant late last year, so there are more people looking for fewer jobs, he said.

But that doesn´t mean Micron workers will necessarily leave the Treasure Valley to seek work. The fact is, the tight job market in the Boise area is replicated in other centers of high tech industry. Micron workers looking to areas such as Seattle, San Jose or even Salt Lake City are likely to be disappointed, said Mitchell.

“Seattle is not in good shape — not only has their high tech industry been hit, but they´ve had the Boeing layoffs, too,” Mitchell said . “San Jose is very heavily into the tech sector, and it´s been hit very hard. San Francisco was hit by the dot-com stuff and a dramatic decline in business travel.”

Even smaller high tech centers like Salt Lake City are unlikely to have many jobs available.

“Utah has seen its first employment decline in 35 years,” Mitchell said. “They´ve seen a dramatic slowdown. Their tech sector took a hit. There´s just not a lot of high tech places growing at the moment.”

Double-income families also will curtail the outward migration of laid-off workers, said Mitchell. If a laid-off Micron worker has a working spouse, that income plus unemployment benefits could be enough to keep a family going until new jobs surface here.

“That unemployment compensation buys time for people to look for something else,” he said. “If a family unit has more than one earner, they´re likely to stay.”

Technology jobs

The resumes are stacking up on Anne Evans´ desk as fast as she can clear them away.

At The Network Group, a technology consulting and services firm in Boise, there are already dozens of applicants for every job opening.

The stack will likely grow in coming days.

“I anticipate we will probably receive a lot of resumes from (Micron workers),” said Evans, human resources manager for The Network Group. “It´ll be interesting to see what type of people are laid off and what skill sets they have.”

The Network Group, which has hired laid off workers from Extended Systems and Sears Technical Center in recent months, now has six open technical positions, which range from network engineers to programmers.

“The majority of our openings are salaried professional level IT jobs,” she said.

Layoffs add to the local talent pool that employers can choose from, making the competition for jobs even fiercer.

“There are a lot of high-caliber people not working right now,” said Evans.

Hewlett-Packard has 57 jobs listed on its Web site for its northwest Boise location, with jobs ranging from marketing to research and development.

“HP is hiring on a limited and selective basis in certain areas of the business to meet market demand, including printing, services and R&D,” said corporate spokeswoman Rebeca Robboy.

Whether former Micron employees are a match for any of those jobs is the question.

“HP looks for specific industry skills or systems skills,” said Boise spokeswoman Deanna Ward.

Ward said applicants could be competing not only with candidates from within the printing industry but also with HP employees who are losing their own jobs in other areas of the business.

Cougar Mountain Software, an accounting software company in Boise, has about a dozen jobs open. Job descriptions range from engineers needed in product development to programmers.

“I´m assuming there will be some developers looking for work,” said Michael Brown, director of sales and marketing at Cougar Mountain. “We don´t typically see people from Micron coming here, but we have hired people from HP. There could be some crossover skills. I´m sure some of those people will find their way here.”

Median salary ranges, depending on the position and experience, start at the mid-$30,000 level for product testers and range to mid-$50,000 for product developers.

While many companies have a handful of openings, the reality is the tech industry is flat.

“We don´t have anything open right now,” said Susan Bundgard, vice president of resources at MPC Computers, formerly MicronPC, in Nampa. “If we did, we´d love to have some Micron applicants. We know a lot of them. But turnover is low and we have no open positions.”

To offer story ideas or comments, contact Julie Howard
[email protected] or 373-6618

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