ANN ARBOR - California-based global electronics company KLA held its grand opening Tuesday morning at its temporary facility at 2350 Green Road with members of Southeast Michigan's tech community present.
The Ann Arbor location joins more than 20 of KLA's development sites around the world, and will act as a major hub, with plans to hire 500-600 employees within the next six years.
Leading the local charge is KLA senior director John McLaughlin, an Ann Arbor native and University of Michigan alum.
"It’s really exciting to do this in your hometown, to see all these jobs created in Southeast Michigan, to see a California company coming in and setting up shop here is just hugely exciting," said McLaughlin. "For me, personally, it’s just really gratifying to be leading that effort."
Over the past two years, KLA looked at more than 390 sites across North America to establish its newest R&D hub.
"We hired a consulting team," said McLaughlin. "We did a very thoughtful analysis looking at cost of living, cost of labor, talent pipeline for engineering -- all sorts of different factors. Quality of life is a really important factor and we settled in Ann Arbor after considering 12 finalists and narrowed it down to three."
Ann Arbor beat Dallas and the Toronto-Waterloo corridor in Ontario as the company's newest site to attract talent and grow its operations.
In two years, KLA plans to open a permanent campus that will house more than double its current center's capacity (250 employees). KLA purchased land from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor Township and its campus will be located in the Ann Arbor Technology Park just east of US-23. Its total investment is an estimated $70 million
"When we open it, we want to have a lot of momentum and critical mass to fill that site," said McLaughlin.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Chief Strategy Officer Bobby Bell explained that the key thing KLA is looking for in the Ann Arbor area is talent. He said the Detroit airport was a major deciding factor when choosing to establish a facility in Ann Arbor.
KLA CEO Rick Wallace also spoke at the event, telling attendees that the 40-year-old company currently employs 10,000 people and is confident its newest hub will help facilitate growth.
"Over 85 percent of KLA’s business is outside of the U.S.," said Wallace. "For us, being competitive worldwide is really critical. We have over 20 development sites around the world and this is the most important new site that the company has done in 20 years in terms of starting from scratch and building out. And it’s because of our confidence in what we’ve seen.
"We’ve placed quite a big bet. And I’ve told a number of employees around KLA: If you want to know where there’s growth and where there’s potential and where the future is, for KLA it’s really our commitment to what we’re doing in Michigan, what we’re doing in Ann Arbor."
Beyond job creation, KLA also aims to become an engaged partner in the local community.
"We’ve already sponsored the Ann Arbor Summer Festival," said McLaughlin. "We were the lead sponsor for a2Tech360. We were in Tech Talk and Tech Trek last week. We will be sponsoring the University Musical Society and I think that’s just the beginning. I think that’s a demonstration of a lot more engagement to come."
This story was sponsored by Ann Arbor SPARK.
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