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Officials at Micron see blue skies ahead

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Only about 30 percent of the 2.3 million-square-foot Micron building, shown in February, 2003, is in use.

Only about 30 percent of the 2.3 million-square-foot Micron building, shown in February, 2003, is in use.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

LEHI — Micron officials play it safe when asked to predict the company's future.

But you can tell by the way they smile that they're pleased with recent progress, and what's good for Micron as a whole should be good for its operations in Lehi.

"We are pleased with the outlook for the remainder of fiscal 2004 and hope to be profitable over that period, provided current market conditions continue and we perform as expected," said Dave Parker, corporate spokesman for the firm known for producing computer-memory chips.

As ever, he said, it's tough to predict the market.

"But we believe they will remain relatively strong based on current market dynamics."

Stan Lockhart, the spokesman for Utah Valley's Micron facility, said that bodes well for the Lehi plant. "Right now, we are operating and hiring on an as-needed basis," Lockhart said. "But things have picked up in the last six months."

In a November letter to the company's stockholders, Micron CEO Steve Appleton said 2003 was a challenging year but one that finished with good indicators.

"The overall market steadily improved in the last half, and we exited the year with a strengthening in average selling prices," Appleton said.

He added: "Micron's fourth quarter results showed significant improvement."

Appleton said Micron is forging new ground in an attempt to broaden its range of products and seeing good customer reception in the wireless and mobile markets, as well as in digital still cameras with image sensor products.

"At the end of fiscal 2003, Micron's cash balance remained strong at over $1 billion," Appleton said. "Following the fiscal year end, our cash position was further enhanced by a $450 million investment from Intel."

Appleton said the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission recognized the damage being done to U.S. computer memory manufacturers and started imposing a duty on foreign traders.

So, "despite the difficulties faced by the semiconductor industry in recent years, the demand for semiconductor products continues to rise," Appleton said.

"Over the past year, memory per system increased approximately 40 percent for consumer, commercial and notebook computing products. Memory consumption in the server space and in communications and mobile applications is also growing rapidly."

Lockhart said the Lehi facility remains focused on testing product that has been fabricated, probed and assembled in other Micron plants.

The job force currently stands between 500 and 600 workers, he said. They have been hired to do technical work at a better-than-average entry-level wage.

"Our Lehi facility is still on the road map and was built with 300 mm wafer technology in mind," Parker said. "Job growth and utilizing more of the building's capacity are dependent upon market conditions, which we evaluate on a regular basis."

Only about 30 percent of the 2.3 million-square-foot Micron building is in use. The world's second largest maker of computer memory chips is upbeat as memory chip prices have firmed, according to a Reuters news service report out of Singapore.

The Idaho firm has been in the red the last three years. It slashed spending and is bouncing back from its worst downturn. It plans $1.5 billion in capital spending in fiscal 2004 and $1 billion to $1.5 billion in 2005.

Contributing: Rodger L. Hardy

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com