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Applied Materials formally marks opening of Evergreen facility in former Shopko building

by DERRICK PERKINS
Daily Inter Lake | May 6, 2022 12:00 AM

Standing beneath a giant rendering of the Applied Materials logo newly emblazoned across the former Shopko building in Evergreen, elected officials, business leaders and corporate honchos formally marked the firm’s latest venture in the Flathead Valley on Wednesday.

The manufacturer’s Evergreen facility is expected to bring as many as 200 jobs to the region. Word of the expansion, eagerly anticipated by local officials and business organizations, first broke in fall of last year.

That anticipation was on display well before the giant scissors came out on Wednesday afternoon.

“Thank you for investing in our community, for creating jobs and being such a fabulous partner,” said Lorraine Clarno, president and CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.

She was one of several to heap praise upon Applied Materials, which has two other facilities in the Kalispell area. The company operates a local headquarters building on West Reserve Drive and a packaging facility on Birch Grove Road. It employs about 600 people locally and more than 28,000 worldwide.

“I applaud Applied Materials for making that investment into our community,” said Kalispell Mayor Mark Johnson, who described the remodeling of the Shopko building as a “second chance, a rebirth.”

“I want to thank you for that from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

Gary Mahugh, president of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce, said he was pleased to welcome the multinational firm to the neighborhood as he headed into retirement.

“We are so happy to have Applied Materials here filling up a building that has sat empty the last few years,” he said.

THE ONE-TIME retail store will now churn out equipment necessary for the manufacturing of semiconductors. Brian Aegerter, the company’s general manager, said products made in Flathead County will be shipped across the world. Those products include subcomponents for other equipment manufactured by Applied Materials, which boasts locations in Japan, Israel, India and in Europe.

Dennis McHaffie, vice president of business operations, said the outlook for Applied Materials remains sunny. Demand for microchips has never been higher, he noted.

“We’re here to stay; we’re here to grow,” McHaffie said. “Thank you for making this our home.”

Work to transform the one-timer shopping outlet remains ongoing. Although largely vacant, the cavernous interior houses a few rows of lockers, a handful of computer terminals and several aisles of equipment. Aegerter said he expects to employ mostly hourly skilled labor in the facility, describing the work as physical assembly.

During his remarks to the assembled dignitaries, he said Applied Materials’ sole limitation in further expansion in the region was available human capital.

“Our growth potential is limited by the number of people we can bring into the valley,” he said.

Afterward, Aegerter said the company has seen an upswing in interest from job searchers. He said the amount of potential workers showing up at job fairs had increased as well. Many live locally, Aegerter said.

Brendan Beatty, director of the state Department of Revenue and one of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s two representatives on hand at the ribbon cutting ceremony, lauded Applied Materials for bringing jobs to the area.

“The people at Applied Materials could go anywhere,” he said, linking the expansion to Gianforte’s policies since taking office last year.

It also may help Montana retain a portion of its homegrown talent, Beatty said. In June 2021, Gianforte’s office launched a repatriation campaign of sorts with the unveiling of the Come Home Montana website. While targeting former residents now performing remote work — thus giving them the ability to relocate — the website also includes a link to local job listings across the state.

“For a long time our greatest export was our educated kids with their Montana values,” Beatty said.

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or dperkins@dailyinterlake.com.

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Officials cut a ribbon outside the Applied Materials building in Evergreen on Wednesday, May 4. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Brian Aegerter, Applied Materials' General Manager for Montana, speaks during a ceremony held for the opening of the company's facility in Evergreen on Wednesday, May 4. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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