Micron Technology confirmed reports that the memory company is narrowing its focus and will trim its workforce by about 30 people. According to Micron spokesman Dan Francisco, all of the layoffs will occur in its light emitting diode, or LED, business in Boise.
Some of the 30 workers affected by the decision will continue working through January. Francisco added most of the company’s LED employees, about 110, will be absorbed by Micron to work in other areas. Another 30 will continue to work in the LED business, principally in licensing of the technology.
Micron entered the LED sector in 2009 to apply its semiconductor fabrication technology to another market besides memory. Francisco said the company received $5 million in federal economic stimulus funds and also invested millions of dollars of Micron’s own money to develop the technology.
The market for LED products at the time seemed bright, according to Francisco, and Micron hoped to expand employment at its Boise facilities after layoffs of 15 percent of its global workforce that began October 2008.
In 2010, Micron also partnered with an Australian company to develop products for the solar industry. But that effort also fizzled and resulted in the closure of that venture’s Transform Solar facility in Nampa this year. More than 250 workers were laid off at Transform over a three month period that began in May.
Mike Howard, principal analyst for market research firm IHS iSuppli, wasn’t surprised by Micron’s pullback in the LED or solar business. “Micron has a habit of doing this thing every couple of years,” he said. “The question is, ‘Why do they keep doing this?’”
According to Howard, the answer is the outlook for the memory market is poor at times and the company will explore opportunities for potential growth outside of its core focus. Competition from manufacturers in China made market conditions tough for Micron.
Executives at Micron placed bets on LED and solar that didn’t go their way, Howard added. “If that worked out, they would have looked like geniuses.”
He said Micron executives can now focus 100 percent on the company’s core business and its agreements to purchase and potentially integrate Elpida and Rexchip Electronics into its operations.