In 2018, Silicon Valley-based KLA Corporation was deep in the search process for a location to establish its second U.S. headquarters. However, the company was looking for more than just building space – it needed an environment with robust business resources and incentives, access to advanced engineering research, a high-quality talent pool and pipeline, and exceptional quality of life.
Out of hundreds of potential locations, KLA chose Ann Arbor, Michigan, and over the next few years, the organization would build its 230,000-square-foot campus and begin its campaign to recruit both in-state and out-of-state talent to join the organization. Nearly four years after the original plans to build a second location with research and development (R&D) facilities were announced, how effective have KLA’s expansion plans panned out amid a pandemic, labor shortage and shifting economy? The answer is one of success, accomplished by public-private partnerships and Michigan’s growing emphasis on semiconductors.
One of the key considerations for KLA when deciding where to set up its second headquarters was state business resources and incentives, and Michigan made a strong pitch. Through support from the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund, KLA secured $2.5 million in performance-based grants, which would, in turn, help bolster the state’s position in semiconductor R&D and manufacturing. Building upon the state’s resources is the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act, bipartisan federal legislation that will support Michigan’s supply chain, auto industry and high-tech companies like KLA.
Moreover, KLA saw a clear future in Michigan that could meet the organization’s workforce and development plans to support its sales objectives. The state has established itself with a top-10 semiconductor workforce and projected job growth of more than 11% over the next five years, according to the SEMI Foundation. Through strategic partnerships, KLA was able to closely integrate itself into the engineering talent pipeline, through a partnership with University of Michigan, and leading-edge research needed to drive innovation that differentiates KLA’s highly desired systems and software that is integral to chip and electronics manufacturing, including those who supply the state’s nation-leading automotive industry.
By the time its Ann Arbor headquarters opened in November 2021, the team already had local leadership in place alongside a 300-person-strong workforce. KLA continues to grow, with its current workforce exceeding 500 employees and plans to add another 100 positions by the end of 2022. This ongoing growth is projected to continue thanks to a pipeline of top-university talent, Michigan-based business leaders, and an ever-growing semiconductor ecosystem.
“Our partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been instrumental in enabling KLA to serve our global customer base from the new headquarters and benefit from the impressive engineering talent and business culture that Michigan offers,” said Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA. “KLA has been part of the most significant technological breakthroughs throughout its 46-year history. As we continue our journey at the forefront of semiconductor technology, we’re thrilled that Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan are now part of our story.”
There are dozens of ways success can be measured when expanding your enterprise, but for companies navigating the current business environment, it is imperative they are able to check the business resources, talent and outcomes boxes when assessing where to set up shop.
For KLA, the decision was clear – it was expanding into a state that valued its business and, in turn, provided the resources, funding and incentives to build the foundation. As the KLA team assessed the talent landscape of Michigan, it could see it would have access to top universities and a highly skilled workforce, which would be key to their hiring goals, both in the short- and long-term. KLA’s future in Michigan is bright, with renewed focus and investments in the semiconductor sector and growing high-tech ecosystem in Michigan. KLA’s decision follows a trend that can be replicated by other high-tech companies as they look to build new headquarters and manufacturing hubs. Through case studies like KLA, Michigan has solidified itself as a tech-forward state with the partnerships, workforce and top companies needed to be a leading contender for business attraction.