Top 50 Stories: 1978 — Micron founded

The obscure company took a bumpy ride to the top

broberts@idahostatesman.comJune 30, 2014 

Statesman article from June 17, 1984

This article was published June 17, 1984.

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Oct. 1, 1978, was the day that Micron Technology Inc., now the world's No. 2 computer-memory manufacturer, began. Barely anyone noticed.

A scan of Idaho Statesmans around that time turned up no mention of it.

The company was founded by Ward Parkinson and other investors. (Parkinson's twin brother, Joe, and Idaho billionaire J.R. Simplot would join later.)

Micron started as a consulting firm in a basement of a dentist's office at Cole Road and Northview Street. Its only customer was Parkinson's former employer, a Texas memory chip company.

"We were not great consultants," Parkinson says now. Micron was "much better at doing production," he said.

Production soon followed. In early 1981, Micron opened its manufacturing campus on Federal Way south of Gowen Road.

In 1984, the company went public in a quest for cash. Its stock opened in the teens, shot up to $40 and plummeted to $4, all within six months, Parkinson said.

Over its 36-year history, Micron was buffeted repeatedly by the startling rises and falls of chip prices on world markets. In 1985, Micron laid off half of its 1,250 workforce and hoped a new chip would get it back in the market.

Micron also weathered an onslaught of Asian countries dumping cheap chips onto the market.

Parkinson populated his company with what he called "dead enders" - people who hadn't been able to move up in their own companies.

"They worked hard and did well," he said.

One of the company's hires was Steve Appleton, who started on a production line. He rose fast. In 1994, Micron picked Appleton to be its CEO and board chairman.

Micron grew into Boise's largest private employer, with 12,000 employees in Boise by the late 1990s. But as the world memory markets gyrated, Micron shed workers. A series of staff reductions and the eventual closure of Micron's Boise manufacturing fabs cut the local workforce to about 5,000 by 2009.

Appleton was killed in a plane crash at the Boise Airport in February 2012. But he had set a course that helped Micron survive the industry's convulsive consolidation before and after his death.

After Elpida Memory Inc., a Japanese competitor, went bankrupt in 2012, Micron decided to buy it. The acquisition in 2013 made Micron second only to Korea's Samsung as a chip maker.

Micron now has 30,000 employees worldwide.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408

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