Micron Technology Inc. began developing its light-emitting diode technology in 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession with $5 million in federal economic stimulus money. LEDs looked like an expanding market.
But the bet didnt pay off. The worlds economic blues, tough competition from LED makers in China and other countries, and Microns renewed focus on its mainstay memory chip business led the company to change its plans for the endeavor.
What will Micron do now?
Micron will license LED technologies it has developed instead of manufacturing and selling LEDs.
What happens to the employees?
Of the 170 employees in the LED venture:
110 will take new jobs at Micron.
30 will stay to sell licenses.
30 will be laid off. The timing hasnt been announced.
What was the project?
Micron wanted to develop a new system to make key components of light-emitting diodes by converting the technology it uses to make dynamic random-access memory chips, which are used in personal computers and other electronic devices. The (LED) competition is global and difficult, which is very similar to what we are used to, Scott DeBoer, Micron vice president of process research and development, said in 2009.
Why was Micron venturing into other product lines?
It tried at least two different approaches as the Great Recession took hold and memory prices slumped. It partnered with an Australian company to create Transform Solar to make solar-power parts in Nampa. It also sought to develop LED technology.
What happened to Transform Solar?
It closed earlier this year, costing 250 jobs in Nampa.
Why is Micron refocusing on memory chips?
The company is about to become the No. 2 player in the world DRAM market, assuming it closes next year on the deal to purchase Elpida Memory Inc., a bankrupt Japanese chip maker. That will make Micron a much bigger player in the chip market and could help ease the ups and downs the market suffers as chip inventories and prices rise and fall.
Moreover, the DRAM market has improved since 2009, and though its still sluggish, it could show improvement over the next couple of years.
Mike Howard, a former Micron employee who is now a semiconductor analyst in Boise for IHS iSuppli, a market research company, said it makes sense for the company to stick to its knitting.
I had heard the scuttlebutt that LED was not performing, Howard said.
What did the taxpayers get for their $5 million?
Micron was able to start the business and add some job opportunities as the unemployment rate rose sharply in the recession, spokesman Dan Francisco said.
Micron also put millions of dollars of its own money into the LED venture.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts