By Mike Rogoway

The Oregonian

A semiconductor equipment company called Edwards Vacuum is consolidating its Hillsboro operations at a new factory that the British firm says will expand its local workforce by 100 employees, to 250.

Edwards announced the new, 75,000-square-foot factory in April 2018 and said Tuesday that construction is complete. The company said it chose to continue operating in Hillsboro because the city is close to its major clients.

Intel’s largest and most advanced operations are in Hillsboro, where the chipmaker employs 20,000. Others, notably communications chip manufacturer Qorvo, also have substantial operations in Washington County.

Edwards said its vacuum and abatement equipment helps chipmakers operate in extremely clean environments, where even a microscopic particle could ruin an entire chip.

“We anticipate continued expansion on site as we plan to design and manufacture our integrated vacuum and abatement production solutions, as well as other world-class products in our portfolio,” said Scott Balaguer, general manager of Edwards’ North American operations, in a written statement.

Edwards’ factory on NE Century Boulevard is one of three major new technology manufacturing projects in Hillsboro.

Intel confirmed earlier this year that it plans a multibillion-dollar expansion of its D1X research factory near Hillsboro Stadium, which will add 1,750 jobs when complete. And last month a Japanese chip industry supplier called JSR Micro said it will build a $100 million factory in Hillsboro.

Edwards and Hillsboro did not immediately say how much the new factory cost or whether the company received public incentives for the project.

Oregon’s tech industry resumed rapid growth last year, even as the state’s broader job market has slowed. The Oregon Employment Department reported “minimal growth” of just 2,000 jobs in the first three months of 2019, according to newly revised figures issued Tuesday.

However, the state’s jobless rate was at a historic low of 4.0% in July, and the newly announced construction projects suggests underlying strength in the tech sector, arguably Oregon’s most vital industry.

“The continued investment in Greater Portland by Edwards Vacuum is further proof that our region is a prime place to grow,” said Matt Miller, interim CEO of regional business recruitment firm Greater Portland Inc.

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