The Daily Herald
Since the announcement of the IM Flash technologies venture between Micron and Intel in March, the environment of the 2,000-acre Lehi campus has changed significantly from what it used to be - empty lots and silent halls.
Steeped in a flurry of activity, the plant is nearing completion and is at 53 percent of its employment target - 1,850 workers by spring 2007.
The number of new hires changes daily said Rod Morgan, IM Flash co-chief executive officer, as does the number of contractors. There are about 2,000 contractors currently
"It's geen pretty exciting to come together with Intel," Morgan said. "There's quite a bit of stuff going on right now."
Initially a 20-building fabrication plant built for Micron's microchip production in 1997, much of it was left unfinished and remained hauntingly empty in recent years because of changing dynamics in the semiconductor industry.
But the Lehi plant is now the international headquarters for IM Flash Technologies and its NAND Flash memory production using nanotechnology to create NAND memory products, which are electrically re-writeable, non-volatile semiconductor devices that retain memory content when power is turned off.
"I went after this one. This to me is just a great opportunity for the two companies," David Baglee, IM Flash co-chief executive officer, said. "It's the fastest semiconductor business there is and I wanted to be a part of it."
Expectations for NAND memory products, which are used in cell phones, MP3 players, computers, digital cameras, flash drives and handhelds, is more than $14.8 billion in 2006, up 40 percent from 2005. With two of the largest semiconductor companies joining forces, their total investment will be upwards of $5 billion. One of the largest single private sector investments in Utah, IM Flash is expected to provide $1.1 billion in total salary at the Lehi plant, with annual incomes averaging $50,000 per employee.
Stan Lockhart, who has been with Micron since the plant's inception, said he is thrilled with its latest developments.
''The IM Flash corporate headquarters here in Utah County gives us the opportunity to realize the full potential of our Lehi site as a major NAND manufacturing facility. It also shows a long-tem commitment to Utah on the part of Micron and Intel," he said.
Most of the construction is going on inside the facility. The mile-long corridor at IM Flash is bustling with foot traffic, with noise of saws, hammers and drills echoing along the halls. Ducts, plumbing and wiring are being installed along with walls, a lot of walls.
The fabricating clean room is under wraps-- covered with a thick opaque plastic. Workers have to suit up in static-free white coveralls, caps and gloves before entering the room. They are installing the air conditioning system in a adjoining room, and duct tape fencing, and gates guide visitors along the construction route.
It's just a hub of activity, "Lockhard said. "All of this is preparing for what is going to go on in the fabricating room."
West of 22 large buildings at the site, a construction village of portable trailers has been brought in, and a temporary 200-man cafeteria tent behind the buildings feeds a small army of workers. A storage building with its metal frame is being built to the norteast. Because the fabrication of NAND semiconductors needs to be done in a clean enviroment, a one-story , 25,000-square-foot warehouse capable of storing a three- to seven-day supply of chemicals is being built.
The IM Flash headquarters is only part of the economic growth in north Lehi. Below its campus, farm fields are quickly disappearing with homes popping up south of State Road 92. Growth is nearing the 2,000- acre buffer of cheat grass.
Part; of what has been termed "the billion dollar mile" by Kim Struthers, Lehi city planner, IM Flash Technologies is bordered on the south and west by two mammoth planned communities expected ;to attract more than 12,000 residents, or one quarter of Lehi's existing population. Each residential/commercial project comes with its own unique amenities-- Traverse Mountain's The Terrace mall and Cabela's and Ivory Ridge's tennis club, water facility and reception center.
The plant built by Micron in 1995 has facilitated much of the growth by funding the building of Lehi's ;infrastructure, he said.
"IM Flash Technologies will be investing millions of dollars," Struthers said. "This will create a huge employment center for those in Lehi."
If you have'nt been yet.
p.s. Wow, it's amazing to drive along highway 92 from I-15 to the mouth of American Fork Canyon. No where is the incredible growth of the Wasatch Front more evident on one highway. If any of you out there have some extra time today take a Sunday drive. Exit I-15 at the Alpine/Highland exit,(just after you go over the Point of the Mountain). Head east along highway 92, toward the mouth of Am. Fork Canyon. You'll be challenged to take in all of the sights of growth on both sides of the highway. Literally billion's of dollars in commercial and residential in the pipeline. Be sure to take a little extra time to continue on up American Fork Canyon and over the Alpine Loop.(Take a few extra dollars for the Canyon. They charge a toll, which keeps up the Canyons itself,campgrounds,lakes,etc. Looks like it's going to snow here in the next 48 hours, so get it done today. This Canyon is literally one of the most beautiful in the world, "you'll feel like a tourist in Manhattan for the first time." You'll proceed up and over the loop and down into Sundance and Provo Canyon's. Take a moment to stop and walk around the Sundance resort, Again, the views are among the most beautiful in the world. If you still have time you may want to take a left when you come to the Provo Canyon highway. If you have'nt seen Midway yet, it's worth a look for all development geeks. Then you will move on to Park City and down I-80 to Salt Lake.