After layoffs, Fairchild Semiconductor vows future investment in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Fairchild Semiconductor said in a press release that it does not intend to close its operations in Maine.

The announcement came on the heals of last week’s news that the computer chip manufacturer will lay off 120 of its 800-person South Portland workforce over the next nine months.

The company said in a press release last week the layoffs stem from a decision to close its 6-inch manufacturing line and move production to an 8-inch manufacturing line at the same site.

“We regret having to make these difficult decisions that affect our community and our friends,” Benney Chang, vice president and managing director of South Portland manufacturing, said in a written statement.

The South Portland plant manufactures analog switches, offline power switches, power factor controllers and interface devices for mobile phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, DVD players, games and notebook computers, among other compact devices.

Fairchild corporate spokeswoman Patti Olson said in an e-mail that the company is not discussing the layoffs, but she provided an unsigned question-and-answer form about the restructuring.

In it, the company states that it plans on making more investments in its 8-inch production line in South Portland, which is more efficient that the 6-inch line.

“Our goal is to build a solid foundation for future growth at the site,” the company said.

The company said that laid off employees will have the opportunity to fill other positions at the company as they become available.

Those who do not land new jobs will receive severance pay and medical benefits ranging from three months to a year. Dental and vision coverage will be provided for one month.

In addition to increasing the capacity of its 8-inch production line, the company said it is also investing in training programs to improve worker efficiency and is “pioneering innovative partnerships with Maine-based clean energy providers” to reduce energy costs.

One of those initiatives is working with the city of South Portland to build a natural gas-fueled, 25-megawatt power plant off Western Avenue.

The original plan, presented to the City Council in 2009, called for the power plant to be built on the campus of National Semiconductor, which would receive thermal energy.

The city estimated at that time the plant could cut utility costs for Fairchild, which would receive electricity, by up to 43 percent, or $1.6 million.

Meanwhile, the city is also considering forming a municipal energy company that would purchase electricity at wholesale prices directly from the ISO New England Grid.

“We look forward to continuing our partnerships with state and local governments to drive future growth and job opportunities at this site,” the company said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

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