- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

The Florida conglomerate that bought a Loudoun County, Va., computer-chip maker in May announced ambitious expansion plans yesterday, including a proposal to build a $30 million plant and bring 170 new jobs to the county.
Sarasota, Fla.-based Uniroyal Technology Corp. said increased demand for the unique chips made by Sterling Semiconductor Inc., which it bought in May, have made the expansion necessary.
George J. Zulanas Jr., a Uniroyal vice president, said Sterling Semiconductor is one of the few companies in the world that produce "single-crystal silicon carbide substrates," which are used to power devices such as DVD players, traffic signals and automobile dashboards.
"It is a very unique product line, and demand is rising," he said.
Mr. Zulanas would not disclose Sterling Semiconductor's market share, but said it is second to Durham, N.C.-based Cree Inc. in the production of silicon carbide substrates.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership will give Uniroyal a $500,000 grant to help fund its expansion plans, which include leasing a 50,000-square-foot facility to be built in the Mercure Business Park in Loudoun County.
Construction on the plant will begin "as soon as possible" and is expected to be completed in early 2001, Mr. Zulanas said.
Uniroyal will close Sterling Semiconductor's manufacturing plant in Danbury, Conn., and move its 25 jobs to the new facility in Loudoun County, Mr. Zulanas said.
The company expects to create 145 additional jobs, including about 70 positions for scientists, he said.
Uniroyal considered shifting Sterling Semiconductor to Connecticut or Florida, but chose to keep the company in Virginia and expand it there because it would disrupt the fewest workers.
"It just made sense for us to stay in Virginia," Mr. Zulanas said.
Sterling Semiconductor is expanding at a time when the computer-chip industry is growing at a fast clip, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association in San Jose, Calif.
Industry sales are expected to increase from $149 billion in 1999 to $312 billion in 2003, an annual growth rate of about 20 percent, the association said.
Sophisticated handheld devices like cellular telephones and Palm Pilots that are powered by computer chips have replaced personal computers as the force driving the industry, the association said.
Sterling Semiconductor is one of three semiconductor manufacturers in Virginia.
White Oak Semiconductor employs 1,600 workers at a facility in Richmond.
Dominion Semiconductor in Manassas has about 900 employees, although its parent, Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc. of Irvine, Calif., announced plans in May to create 600 additional jobs at the plant.
Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Inc. also plans to build a semiconductor plant in Virginia.
The $500,000 state grant was made available by the Virginia Investment Partnership program, which provides cash to expanding companies in the state.
Of the five companies that have received grants, Sterling Semiconductor is the only one in Northern Virginia, a state spokeswoman said.

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