Micron Conspiracy Theory And More

The GUARDIAN has finally been forced to enter the Micron debate. Here are a couple of pieces from readers. We welcome comments–especially from Micron refugees. As usual, names are protected to protect the victims.

Micron has been pretty mum to the media on the layoffs issue, prompting speculation among many of us.  

This issue grabbed so much attention that Governor Butch left his undisclosed location and made a rare public appearance. It was so important that the Idaho Department of Labor spokesman made elaborate public statements about being ready to help Micron’s layoff victims.

Yet, it is so secret that laid-off employees must sign confidentiality agreements or risk losing their lead parachute benefits package, and the company won’t elaborate on the statement by Steve Appleton about “lower levels of employment.”

Micron currently employs about 10,000 employees in Boise. It appears they are removing production from Boise and leaving R & D. The Research & Development folks are a small part of Micron Boise.

If Micron is eventually shuttering the production facility, the layoffs may well be more like 8,000 or more employees. Contrary to the local realty spokesperson, these were relatively high paying jobs. 

Micron may be allowing the top movers and shakers in Boise to divest themselves of real estate, restaurants and luxury good holdings in the local area before the economic tsunami hits.

Boise economist John Church recently spoke on the economic impact. He said, “Today, 10 percent of their work force here, another 1,100- or 1,300-job cutback, probably wouldn’t be that big a deal to the Boise economy. It’s growing very rapidly, so it probably would absorb that pretty readily,” Church said. “On the other hand, if it were to be 20 percent or more, that’s troublesome.” 

It should be noted that Micron has been sucking about 1.6 million gallons a day from our aquifer for cooling and diluting acid so they can dispose of it.  It seems an unlikely coincidence that  farmers who were about to have their water shut off in the Snake River Valley are suddenly making some last minute deal. 

Another unlikely coincidence is  all the desert land in far-east Boise that is, owned by current and former Micron board members.  So… Micron leaves, lowering their daily usage of 1.6 million gallons of water from our aquifer. With a new found “water supply” (Micron’s former use), at least one stumbling block to development would be eliminated.

I lived in Orange County California in the late 1980’s when Boeing laid off 20,000 employees. The resulting economic shockwaves flattened the local economy for 10 years. Residents could not sell their home for any price, and jobs got very scarce. The Orange County Basin had a population that makes the Treasure Valley look like a two horse town.

If Micron cuts and runs, the economic impact will be huge.  Something about the percentage of one’s eggs in a basket comes to mind…


With the current layoffs at Micron, a discussion of the tax breaks given to them by local government would be interesting.

There seems to be a lot of local sentiment that homeowners are footing
the bill for property tax breaks given to Micron to keep them operating,
and providing jobs, in Boise. Those deals obviously haven’t worked.

I heard they get an exemption for any property value over $800 million. I don’t believe Micron’s site is valued over that number at this time. I’d love to hear what any educated parties have to say about this topic.

My gut feeling is that current layoffs are just the beginning of a larger reduction of their local workforce that will take place over the next year or two. That will have huge ramifications for the valley.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Do the math.

    A $225,000,000 loss per quarter equals a $900,000,000 loss per year.

    They can cut a lot of places, but wages is clearly the big target. If we assume a representative fully loaded wage of $60,000 per year, they need to dump 15,000 workers!

    Given that they only employ a little over 20,000 world wide it would appear that they have to do some other things as well, like dumping underperforming divisions. But that generally means layoffs by the purchaser. One way or the other, people are going to get stung.

    Boise looks a lot like Seattle when Boeing was the only game in town. The ups are nice, but the downs are hell.

  2. Dave, I think James brings up a good point and which you, as the only investigative reporter in the area, are honor bound to determine. That is what are the tax breaks Micron has gotten ie property and/or corporate income tax, unemployment tax rate reductions, any sales tax rebates? I’m sure they’ve received some or all of these from the legislature as inducements to staying here.

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    And one other thing. I know that Micron has a duty to its shareholders, but I also remember when Micron was developed by the Parkinson brothers in the basement of the dentist’s office at Cole and Northview. Micron is a Boise company and should strive mightily to remain so.

  3. A good thought. Less pollution. Less traffic. Elderly might be able to live on their fixed income again. Choice of low cost housing and able to pick your neigborhood without anyone being within ear shot or eye shot. Pick of camp grounds. No More ACHD or other goverment groups to pick on. Could the quality of life return. Gee can anyone add to this list?

  4. Robert,

    I think you may have commented under the wrong story, but if you did intend indeed to comment under the Micron story my following thoughts are just…

    Your seeming glee of people in this valley losing jobs, your and my neighbors and friends is very upsetting and despicable. Please do not take joy from the pain and suffering that many families throughout the Treasure Valley are now in the midst of or are fearful everyday they go into work could be their last. Get over yourself and start caring about your neighbors! How would you feel at the thought of losing a job, your insurance, being able to take care of your family?

    Remember karma is a bitch.

    p.s. Dave, if Robert did indeed comment under the wwrong article, I apologize for my rant.

    EDITOR NOTE–We can only wait for Robert to tell us. If he was aiming for the P&Z story, he needs to go to the bottom of the posting to comment. I will fix and delete this comment if that is the case.

  5. Dave,
    So greetings once again from D.C. as a one time employee of Micron in the tiny Staffing department and current stock holder, it amazes me that even though Mr. Appleton and others that run the company (I can think of 3) have had two layoffs within a 5 year time frame, continue to report losses in excess of nine-digit figures are still allowed to retain the helm of the the company.

    Now correct me if I am wrong, I understand that the senior leadership in the past (Not sure about current) have taken pay cuts (in the case of Mr. Appleton a complete cut) but continued to receive stock options that far exceeded what they received or would have received in pay.

    My thinking is that if you run a publicly traded company and it continues to lose money for its investors come to the self-realization that maybe you can’t do the job and maybe it’s time to find greener pastures. Yes, you may be relatively young in the corporate head honcho world but, if you can’t recognize that you are failing then it may be no wownder you and your team can’t turn around and make profitable again an otherwise great company.

    Just a thought

  6. I am not a current or past Micron employee, but I have some thoughts on the matter;

    Without a significant reinvention of Micron, they are only delaying the inevitable. There are many market forces pulling Micron out of Boise, here are two:

    #1) RAM has become a commodity, and commodities are manufactured where labor is cheap. While Boise is cheap compared to Silicon Valley, we are not cheap when compared to the Asian countries which staff Micron’s competition.

    #2) Economic Clusters: Economic clusters are created where major OEM manufacturers and their suppliers co-locate. Creating over time a geographical location with an economical advantage for that product or service. 75% of the OEM products that use Micron’s products are manuactured in Asia. Micron’s competitors that have located themselves adjacent to the OEM’s have an advantage by operating within that cluster.

    IBM has had its ups and down but has survived the comoditization of once high tech specialty products. IBM shifted from the world of low profit components to higher profit OEM final goods. As the OEM for computers became a crowded field, IBM shifted to a server and services based firm. IBM now enjoys profitbale supply chain enhamcenet services and has a diverse portfolio of products and services. I am not an IBM stock holder or employee, but it is a good example of a large company who has faced the same challenges as Micron, yet survived by reinventing itself and transforming to a learning organization.

    Tips for Micron:

    1) We appreciatte your commitement to Boise, your company performance and stock price is indicative of your commitment to keep jobs in Boise, when the winds were blowing to Asia many years ago.

    2) Diversify your products through acqusitions that are up or down the supply chain.

    3) Leverage partnerships with Texas Instruments and other firms in RFID technology that will replace barcodes and many other similar technology. Focus on nano-technology for memory capabilities in RFID chips, so this technology can do more than broadcast identity, but add value to the product packaging.

    4) Become experts on bringing new technology to market and sell services assisting other companies bringing their innovative products to market. This not only provides a services based revenue, but positions Micron to take advanatge of new technology prior to their competitors. As technology continues to grow at light speed, it will become more and more critical that companies get products to market fast. Revamp existing manufactuing spaces for a modular style for re-tooling with minimal investment to produce new products for your clients, and drop the manufacturing as the new technology approachs maturity or commodity stage.

    Most new technlogies are manufactured in the US, but as the product gains a following manufacturing is outsourced to lower cost nations. Position Micron as the first manufacturer of new technology and assist with bringing it to market, then quickly exit.

    For what it is worth, there are my thoughts.

  7. Poster boy, Steve Appleton may get to join the ranks of other outstanding citizen assets (according to Boise Chamber folks) like Albertson CEO, Larry Johnston, MK’s CEO (‘s) Agee & family.etc.

    I think Micron dabbled briefly with diversification of products and RIFD technology when they dumped Micron Communications to better concentrate on commodity products.

  8. JJ,
    You make some excellent points and IBM is a great example of a company that transitioned from manufacturing to an information service based organization.

    Unfortunately, Micron is barely competent enough to get computer chips out the door. They will never make the transition that IBM has made. And I doubt they will transition into nanotech, either, which would seem to be one field they might have an outside shot at.

    Their management simply lacks the vision to truly innovate. And their fontline engineers that are proven innovators at what they do have no say in the matter.

  9. I was part of the first layoff back in 2003. Having a family and many bills to pay I was quite distressed to say the least. However, after much soul searching I decided to leave the industry and take advantage of the free re-training program that laid-off employees were offered through the Dept. of Commerce.

    It wasn’t easy and took some sacrifice but now I’m in a field that is more stable and more satisfying. Hopefully these same opportunities will be made available to the current group. The tech industry is so unstable these days, and probably always will be. The money was good, but I wouldn’t go back now.

  10. Tom
    Been there 3 times now caused by corporate buy outs. Now I’m self employed. And yes these layoffs will effect me also, but I’m willing to except it. Quality of life is much more important to me. Something maybe you ought to think about.

  11. Robert,

    So sad. So sad indeed. You seem heartless NOT caring about these people, people going through an experience you can relate to first hand. You can have your quality of life. I sure hope you can buy groceries and pay your bills with your so called quality of life.

    Growth is not what is wrong with this city, this state, you are good sir.

  12. A friend of mine in the electronics business – not Micron – says rumblings in the business are sounding more like 3,500 people getting the pink slip. That will certainly hurt a lot of people and make the already slumping housing market even worse. My friend would like to start his own business but because he has a young family he needs to have health insurance. The uncertainty of employment in the high tech industry is a real strain on all employees and their families.

  13. Geee ! Thanks Tom!
    And yes I will survive. Would be nice to smell fresh air again.

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