Will Micron keep growing in Boise? The CEO says company is in a ‘sweet spot’

The new CEO of Micron Technology Inc. says the digital-memory maker will keep growing in Boise, adding employees as it takes advantage of surging worldwide demand for memory and data storage.

Sanjay Mehrotra said Micron’s Southeast Boise campus will remain a center of excellence for technology development and a hub for the company’s global finance, sales and manufacturing development, even though most of its products are made elsewhere.

“It’s a large campus with a strong set of capabilities, and yes, I would expect that we would be growing talent in this campus,” Mehrotra told the Idaho Statesman on Thursday.

He did not say how much the staff might grow. The company said it has 6,800 employees in Boise, making it the biggest for-profit employer in the Treasure Valley and Idaho’s largest publicly traded company. It employs 28,000 more in factories and offices around the world. And it is setting sales records.

Micron employed 12,000 people in Boise in the late 1990s. In 2009, when it ended most chip manufacturing in Boise after a series of layoffs, employment fell to 5,000. By 2013, Micron had crept up to 5,600 employees here, and it has added 1,200 since.

Mehrotra (meh-RO-truh), 59, who succeeded CEO Mark Durcan in May, introduced himself to about 300 members of the Boise business community Thursday at a luncheon put on by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

He told the audience that the U.S. once had scores of memory manufacturers, but today Micron is the only “pure play” semiconductor memory and storage company in the Western Hemisphere. Micron has the technology, personnel and customer relationships to thrive amid competition, he said.

One source of semiconductor-industry growth for the next few years will be artificial intelligence, which Mehrotra predicts will bring solutions to many world problems, including cancer and other diseases. “That requires a tremendous amount of data,” he said.

Some industry estimates say worldwide demand for flash memory and dynamic-random access memory, or DRAM, will grow an average of $10 billion a year for the next several years on top of today’s $120 billion, he said.

“Micron is at the sweet spot of the trends that are sweeping our lifestyles and sweeping the world,” he said. “This is a company extremely well-positioned to win the future.”

The company also plans to build a three-story office building on the Boise campus to provide more space for engineers and new recruits, with a customer center and an auditorium.

Is China a threat?

The world memory market remains dominated by South Korea’s Samsung and Hynix. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that China’s efforts to build its own semiconductor sector through a state-owned firm threatens U.S. makers such as Micron and Intel, worrying U.S. officials.

Mehrotra told the Statesman that Micron has survived competitive threats before and will be ready for whatever China does.

“Our focus is not to get overly possessed with any pocket of competition, but absolutely continue to drive our road map ahead,” he said.

Might Micron form a partnership with the Chinese, who would like its technology? “We don’t comment on such matters,” Mehrotra said. “Don’t engage in speculation, right?”

What Mehrotra likes about Boise

Mehrotra told the luncheon group that he had never spent a day in Boise until his first day on the job. He and his wife live in the Bay Area, where Mehrotra cofounded SanDisk, a Micron competitor, in 1988 and led it before he stepped down in 2016 when Western Digital, a hard-drive maker, bought it for $19 billion. After Durcan announced his intent to retire, his interviews with Micron board members and executives all took place elsewhere.

“I like Boise, the Downtown restaurants and bars,” he said. “What I like most here is the commute. The people are very nice as well. Thank you for making Boise such a welcoming city, a charming city.”

He is staying in a hotel while he and his wife look for a house to rent.

David Staats: 208-377-6417, @DavidStaats