Expansion uncertain for Linear Technology

Chipmaker might add second Camas factory if there’s a sales uptick

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Linear Technology Corp. is taking a “wait and see” attitude toward physical expansion of its manufacturing operations in Camas as it prepares for the possibility of a short-term drop in sales, a company spokesman said Friday.

But even without adding space, the chipmaker has added some 60 to 70 jobs in response to strong sales, spokesman John Hamburger said from the company’s headquarters in Milpitas, Calif.

“What we’ve been able to do in the last fiscal year is expand within the existing bricks and mortar,” Hamburger said. “We’ve been able to keep up with demand. What we have now is sort of a wait-and-see position.”

The chipmaker now has 324 employees at its Camas site, up some 60 to 70 from a year ago, Hamburger said. It reported worldwide revenue of $1.48 billion for the fiscal year ending July 3, up from $1.17 billion in the previous year. Net income climbed to $580.8 million from $361 million in the same time period.

The Portland Business Journal on Friday quoted Linear Chief Operating Officer Alex McCann as saying that construction could begin in early 2012 on a second factory at its Camas site, if its forecast for an uptick in sales in early 2012 comes to pass. That plant could be equal in size to the existing 105,000 square-foot factory at 4200 Pacific Rim Blvd. the newspaper reported.

Hamburger’s comment was more qualified, saying that Camas remains the company’s preferred site for expansion, and that timing depends on sales growth. He noted a company news release, dated July 26, expressing caution about long-term growth prospects, with a forecast that revenues could decline by 6 to 8 percent in the current quarter.

Linear makes silicon wafers for a large variety of analog computer chips. Its largest market segment is in industrial products, making up 41 percent of sales, followed by communications, 23 percent; computing, 13 percent; automotive, 12 percent; military, 7 percent; and consumer products, 4 percent. Sales of automotive products have grown rapidly due to an increase in electronic gadgets incorporated into vehicles, Hamburger said.

Talk of expansion is nothing new at Linear. The Columbian reported in April 2010 that Linear was in early discussions with city officials about what, even then, was described as a long-planned expansion.