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Applied Materials plans to buy Shopko building in Evergreen

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | September 3, 2021 12:39 PM

Tech manufacturer Applied Materials is looking to expand its Flathead Valley operations with plans to purchase the empty Shopko department store building near the intersection of U.S. 2 and Montana 35 in Evergreen.

Ricky Gradwohl, Applied Materials's senior director of communications, confirmed the plan on Thursday.

"Applied Materials is in the process of expanding our Kalispell facilities to support our growing business," Brian Aegerter, the company's general manager for Montana, said in a statement.

Applied Materials already operates two Kalispell facilities — one on West Reserve Drive and another at the corner of U.S. 2 East and Birch Grove Road. The company builds equipment for semiconductor chips used in cellphones, TVs, solar panels and other electronic devices.

Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Applied Materials has locations around the world, including in Japan, Israel, India and across Europe.

Aegerter said the company currently has 600 employees working in the Flathead Valley, and 90 job openings in manufacturing, supply chain and engineering.

"The work that we do has roots dating back over 40 years in the Kalispell community, and today our teams at Applied are making some of the most innovative products for the semiconductor industry," he said.

Applied Materials' local presence grew from the legacy of Semitool, a semiconductor manufacturer founded in Kalispell in the 1970s.

In 2009, Applied Materials purchased Semitool — its former competitor — for $364 million.

The company established the Reserve Drive facility as its local headquarters. It also turned the former Costco building on Birch Grove Road into its packaging, plates and cleans facility.

A third Applied Materials location in Libby closed in 2015; all of its 17 employees were offered positions in Kalispell.

The former Shopko store is about 98,000 square feet and sits on more than 8 acres of land. The building has been empty since Shopko declared bankruptcy in 2019 and closed 360 stores.

A few months after the Evergreen Shopko shut its doors, Kmart closed its 88,000-square-foot store just across the street.

Since then, no solid plans have materialized to utilize the two spacious buildings and their extensive parking lots.

In 2020, the county valued the Shopko building at $4.3 million and the Kmart building at $3 million.

Local developer Curt Lund is building The Woodlands, a residential community for people 55 and older, behind the Shopko site. Construction on the second of four buildings at The Woodlands was completed in May.

Connie McCubbins, executive director of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce, was pleased to hear of the potential sale of the building.

“We’re just glad that someone will be moving into the building,” she said.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.