Chip giant spokesman thinks optimism misplaced; impact on local facilities is still a mystery

Despite Tuesday's announcement by Intel Corp. that it planned to layoff an additional 5,500 workers, Washington County's top public official is optimistic that local employees and the region's economy will escape relatively unscathed.

'This area will be taking less of a hit than other areas around the world,' said Tom Brian, chairman of the board of county commissioners, citing 'reliable sources' for his information.

'We've got 17,000 people here, and it's (Intel's) most advanced design, research and manufacturing sites in the world. This is the leading edge of what they do.'

However, Bill MacKenzie, Intel Oregon spokesman, said he was more cautious in his outlook.

'At this point, I would have to phrase that a bit differently,' MacKenzie said, responding to Brian's remarks. 'None of the sites really know what the impact will be on them individually.

'It's clear there is going to be some impact on Intel Oregon, but the extent is not known.'

The comments were made the day following Intel's announcement that it planned to lay off 10 percent of its more than 100,000 work force by the middle of 2007.

Of that number, about 5,000 workers have already been cut. Many left through natural attrition, some were employees of business units that were sold, others part of an earlier round of layoffs, including 170 local Intel managers who were laid off in July.

About 5,500 employees are still expected to lose their jobs.

Difficult actions

Intel's President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini said Tuesday that the Santa Clara, Calif., microchip manufacturing giant planned to restructure its worldwide operations, cutting the jobs and saving about $2 billion in 2007 and $3 billion annually after that.

Otellini said the job cuts would reduce Intel's global work force to about 95,000 by the end of this year, and 92,000 by the middle of 2007.

That's 10,500 fewer than the company's work force at the end of 2006's second quarter.

'These actions, while difficult, are essential to Intel becoming a more agile and efficient company, not just for this year or the next, but for years to come,' Otellini said.

The company expects severance costs to total about $200 million.

Intel has seven campuses and 17,500 employees in Oregon, most of them in Hillsboro and Aloha.

The company also signed a Strategic Investment Program agreement in 2005 with the county, promising to improve its Aloha fabrication plant.

'There's stress here'

Specifics about where and when are being left to the rumor mill, although the company has said it plans to make some of the layoffs this year and others next spring.

Those targeted for the early cuts include people employed in the marketing, information technology, and human resources departments.

The delay in more specifics is frustrating to some - Dawn Foster, an Intel employee and owner of the local blog 'Open Culture,' noted online that she would like to have a speedier resolution.

'Personally, I would rather know where I stand now… Patience is not a trait that I hold in abundance,' Foster wrote.

County Commissioner Dick Schouten, who represents Beaverton and parts of Aloha, said he and his wife, an Intel employee in the information technology department - one of the targeted departments for cuts - are anxiously waiting for more news.

'There's stress there,' Schouten said.

MacKenzie said the company's employees were certainly uneasy but that work was continuing at the Oregon campuses with some normalcy. He also added that some employees are finding light in the gloom of the announcement from headquarters.

'There is some optimism that we're tackling an issue that needs to be tackled. In the longer run, this will be good for us,' he said.

Intel, the world's largest computer chip-maker, has come under pressure in recent years from its closest competitor, Advanced Micro Devices, and is attempting to streamline its operations.

The company is the state's largest private employer and it represents about 6.5 percent of the county's total work force and about 33 percent of the county's manufacturing employment.

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