New road into Kyocera campus may usher expansion

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
photoKyocera map
photoDavid Williams, president of Kyocera Ceramics Corp.

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It’s just a new driveway, for now.

But plans to build a new access route into Kyocera Industrial Ceramics Corp.’s Fourth Plain Boulevard campus and the shifting global economy could pave the way for its future expansion, said leaders of the longtime Vancouver operation.

The new road at the intersection of Northeast 62nd Avenue and Fourth Plain will provide a straight shot into Kyocera Ceramic’s parking lot, according to the company’s submittal to Vancouver city planners.

Expected to be under construction this year, the 34-foot-wide roadway will eliminate the need for employees and shipments to travel the winding lane through the company’s neighboring 33-acre site, owned by parent company Kyocera International Inc. That tract and its empty building have been up for sale since the site was vacated by AVX Corp., which shut its computer chip-related operations there in 2001.

It is unclear whether a prospective buyer has been found. Leaders of Kyocera Industrial Ceramics say they can’t speak for their San Diego-based parent, Kyocera International Inc. The international company had no comment.“We just thought it was high time for us to get our own entrance,” said David Williams, North Carolina-based president of the ceramic manufacturing company which designs and makes components for the high-tech industry.

However, high demand for the specialized parts raises the prospects of expanded facilities and jobs, placing even more importance on the wider access route into Kyocera’s plant.

Williams said staff numbers are up across the board for Kyocera Industrial Ceramics Corp., which employs about 320 people throughout the U.S., including 85 employees at the Fourth Plain facility. The operation there makes components for several industries, including aerospace, paper-making equipment, indexable cutting equipment and semiconductor processing equipment. Now in a down stage, the $43.5 billion semiconductor processing market is expected to increase to $46.7 billion in 2013, according to SEMI, an association that serves manufacturers of micro- and nano-electronics.

The cyclical semiconductor market’s upswing could coincide with an expansion that would add a second building south of the only building on Kyocera Industrial Ceramics’ 14-acre Vancouver campus, Williams said. He declined to provide a time frame. “The future is pretty bright for a new building there,” he said.

For Kyocera, operating in the U.S. keeps it near a pool of skilled machinists necessary for production. The company also covets its existing employees and likes being stationed in Vancouver, where it is close to Washington’s bands of Boeing Co.-trained machinists, Williams said.

“Finding trained, capable machinists is a problem around the United States,” said Williams, who is stationed at Kyocera Industrial Ceramics’ plant in Henderson, N.C. The company operates plants in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and a sister facility in Tijuana, Mexico.

With labor costs soaring all over the world, “even in China,” said Williams, staffing is expected to increase at its U.S. plants.

“Our experience in Vancouver has been very positive,” he said. “The quality of the workforce there is high, our employees who live there like it, and we can see expanding there in the future.”

That could bode well for the eventual sale of the adjoining site, southeast of Fourth Plain and Stapleton Road. It was briefly considered for a mixed-use business park with multifamily housing development by the Vancouver Housing Authority. That $21 million deal fell through in 2008. The property was then returned to the market and has been for sale ever since.