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SemiSouth opening set Thursday in Starkville

SemiSouth Laboratories Inc. will open its semiconductor manufacturing plant Thursday at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park in Starkville.

The company, which presently has 45 workers, plans to grow to 250 employees within the next five years with an annual revenue of about $100 million.

“We expect production to begin in the fourth-quarter of 2006,” said Keith Nootbaar, SemiSouth vice president of sales and marketing.

Nootbaar said the key benefit of silicon carbide technology is creating the ability to operate electrical and computer systems up to 10 times faster and at lower temperatures than conventional silicon technology.

“The true promise of silicon carbide is its ability to make high-end power supplies more energy efficient, run cooler and be physically smaller in size,” said Nootbaar.

He said silicon carbide components are expected to increase the fuel efficiency of hybrid vehicles, for example.

Since the research began in 2000, much of SemiSouth’s employees were engineers and scientists, with some coming from Mississippi State University, as well as other parts of the world.

“We also participate closely with the MSU engineering department by employing undergraduate interns to work side by side with these world-class professionals. This helps us to build a solid technical community with very little turn over,” said Nootbaar.

In the future, the employment trend of the company will migrate toward hiring more equipment operators than engineers, said Nootbaar.

“In a few years, local non-technical employees would outnumber our technical professional staff. This translates into a great employment growth opportunity for the community,” he said.

Nootbaar said that as the bulk of work at SemiSouth moves from research to production, the area will see more recognition and likely more electronic-based industry.

“As SemiSouth transforms from a silicon carbide research and development company into a silicon carbide materials and microchip company, this will bring visibility to the area and the community, as it has for Austin (Texas) and Raleigh-Durham, (N.C.)” said Nootbaar.