Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

A microchip factory in Bend that faced closure will stay open under a new owner, which foresees $25 million per year in annual revenue.

Silicon Power Corp. of Malvern, Pennsylvania, on May 1 bought the assets of the factory at 307 SW Columbia St., which has been in operation since the 1980s.

Silicon Power is a privately held company that designs and builds microchips for government and private-sector customers in the military and electric utility industries, Senior Vice President John Doricko said. Silicon Power created a new division, called SiCamore Semi, around the Bend site.

It is the company’s first venture in making silicon and silicon carbide wafers, the substrate material in microchips.

“Getting a robust, secure supply chain which they control is a big benefit to them,” Doricko said of Silicon Power. The company decided to buy the Bend factory, rather than build its own in Pennsylvania, he said. “This site has been doing a great job for a really long time,” Doricko said. “It has a tremendous team of people.”

The plant’s previous owner, California-based Microsemi Corp., decided in 2017 to move the manufacturing portion of its Bend operation, which includes an engineering team, overseas. The company estimated that 100 people would lose their jobs.

Microsemi was acquired in 2018 by Arizona-based Microchip Technology, which was open to selling the Bend wafer plant, Doricko said.

Silicon Power would not disclose the value of the transaction.

SiCamore Semi will run at a much lower volume than its global predecessors, at least initially, Doricko said. The company is trying to hire about 25 people, starting with individuals who recently worked under Microchip, he said.

“We believe this site can regrow over the next five years to become $25 million to $30 million” in annual revenue, Doricko said. “It’s a tall order, but the site is capable.”

Silicon Power plans to make wafers that can by used in the electric utility industry, military applications and electric vehicles, CEO Harshad Mehta said.

Cost cutting is not a priority for Silicon Power, Doricko said. “We’re not fighting a land war in Asia,” he said. “The answer is to lead in innovation and technical capability.”

The deal would not have come together without Bend residents who had connections in the semiconductor industry and were concerned about the future of the plant, which was founded locally as Advanced Power Technologies, said Roger Lee, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon.

“They weren’t driven by profit motive,” Lee said.

Semiconductor industry veteran Bert Allen had lived in Bend for about six months when he heard about Microsemi’s plan to close the plant.

“I did not want to see Central Oregon lose this very, very key technology in the future of the world, actually, with the electrification of the world,” he said.

Allen said he expects to have some role in helping SiCamore Semi grow its business and in the meantime has started an electric power device company.

SiCamore Semi hopes to build an ecosystem of semiconductor technology companies in Bend, Doricko said. “We think this could become the foundation.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com