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MICRON PAYROLL LIKELY TO REACH $200 MILLION

The silicon wafer manufacturing plant that Micron Technology Inc. plans to build in Lehi should have a payroll of more than $200 million a year within two to five years, according to the company's vice president of operations.

Kenneth G. Smith, who has been with Micron since 1987, spoke Friday at the Governor's Conference on Economic Development and Tourism. About 400 people, most representing businesses, registered for the conference, which focused on the information superhighway, one of Gov. Mike Leavitt's major themes.According to Smith, the Micron payroll is only a part of the enormous economic benefit the new plant will bring to Utah. The company's Boise, Idaho, facility presently purchases about $430 million in supplies from Idaho businesses.

"We believe in buying in Utah for the Utah site," said Smith.

Smith said Micron may eventually build another facility on its 2,200 acres in Utah County. If the computer industry doesn't experience a downturn, Micron could employ as many as 7,000 people in the county.

However, he believes that realistically, the work force is not likely to exceed 6,000 because "when it gets bigger than that . . . you lose the team spirit."

Smith said Micron believes strongly in protecting the environment and having "zero impact."Responding to concerns about the amount of water the plant will need (2 million gallons per day,) he said, "That is the amount of water to water 600 acres of pie cherries." In fact, he said, Micron recently purchased an orchard in Goshen so it could transfer water rights to Lehi.

Much of the property around the plant will be left as a green belt, and some may remain agricultural, he said. Landscaping with large berms will partially block the view of the plant from Alpine residents.

Smith said Micron intends to support research and development projects at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, including providing fellowships. The company also will donate used equipment, which universities would consider state-of-the-art.

Silicon wafers are "the heartbeat of the information age" according to Smith.

Micron is researching such advances as chips with radio-frequency tags that could be used to identify employees as they moved through facilities, luggage in airports or even pigs in a stockyard. The company also hopes to seize a large part of the market from Pacific Rim competitors in the evolving area of flat panel LED devices that can show images - the type that may be used in pocket television sets, for example.

Micron is such a huge company that he believes the revenue this year will be $2.5 billion from the Boise plant. Net profit in 1994 was $400 million.

Smith stressed that Micron's success lies in an intelligent and well-cared-for work force.

"We are not looking for cheap labor. I don't think cheap labor buys you very much at all," he said. Nearly half of the workers are direct labor people who help manufacture the wafers. They often are hired in Boise at $7.35 per hour with quarterly bonuses that increase the total by about 72 percent.

"If they save these quarterly payments, they can save up for a down payment on a house, " he said. In addition, Micron paid more than $48 million in property, income and sales taxes in Idaho last year. It also has invested millions since 1984 in education programs, including tutoring high school and elementary students.

Micron has 130 supervisors in Boise, all of whom started as direct labor operators, he said. The same is true of the five production managers, some of whom earn six-figure salaries. Micron's president is 34 years old and started as a direct labor employee. The company has made it a policy not to hire "outside" people to go over a current employee's head, he said.