Building Memory at Micron
UND grad leads site selection for memory chip manufacturing sites.
What seemed like science fiction yesterday is today’s reality. Radiologists are using artificial intelligence to read x-rays. Self-driving cars are becoming more prominent on roads. Most people carry a hand-held supercomputer nearly constantly.
These technological marvels rely on memory and storage semiconductors — also called “chips” — to function.
Enter Micron Technologies, the only domestic producer of memory chips. Last fall, Micron announced plans to build two new memory chip manufacturing plants, and tapped a UND grad to lead the site selection process.
Scott Gatzemeier, ’97, is Micron’s Corporate Vice President, Front End U.S. Expansion. Starting in mid-2021, he worked with policymakers in D.C. to pass legislation that would provide federal grants for companies building domestic chip manufacturing plants. He also traveled around the country seeking the best location for the new plants, which will ultimately help protect the U.S. from economic and security threats.
“Chips power many downstream industries, making them an incredibly important part of the economy that we want to be able to drive,” Scott said.
Domestic production could help stave off chip shortages like in 2021, which stalled U.S. economic growth by nearly a quarter-trillion dollars.
Manufacturing memory chips in the U.S. has additional advantages. “Bringing leading-edge memory manufacturing to the U.S. will also support efforts to address vulnerabilities resulting from counterfeiting and tampering, IP theft, and cybersecurity risks," Scott said.
Under Scott’s leadership, Micron selected Boise, Idaho, and Clay, N.Y., for its manufacturing sites. Micron’s investments will accelerate economic opportunities for these communities, creating over 67,000 U.S. jobs. They are part of the company’s strategy to gradually increase American-made leading-edge DRAM production to 40% of the company’s global output over the next decade.
With plant construction moving forward, Scott said Micron will manufacture chips capable of high data storage capacity needed to power artificial intelligence and 5G communications. “These are two fundamental technologies causing rapid growth for numerous industries,” Scott said.
Scott cited healthcare, automotive, agriculture and entertainment as industries that use large amounts of data and rely on the technology, as well as products we use every day like smartphones and computers.
The self-driving car, however, is a data hog. “We jokingly call autonomous driving vehicles ‘data centers on wheels’ because of the amount of memory needed for full autonomy,” Scott said.
Chips power many downstream industries, making them an incredibly important part of the economy that we want to be able to drive.Scott Gatzemeier
A MEMORABLE JOURNEY
Scott was a four-year member of the UND Men’s swim team, earning Academic All-American and All-American honors. His schedule forced him to maximize his time. “Something I tell kids: ‘Choose to fill your time; don’t let time fill you.’ When I was swimming, I never knew when I’d have time to get projects done and papers written so I’d knock it out as quickly as I could. Once I got into the workforce, I was able to do work quickly. It made me more valuable to the company.”
Scott’s Micron journey began in the late ’90s when he started at the company’s headquarters in Boise, Idaho, as a summer intern. After finishing his degree at UND in December 1997, he returned to Boise and began working at Micron as an engineer.
After eight years at the Boise plant, Scott was asked to help start IM Flash, an Intel/Micron joint venture in Lehi, Utah. He returned to Boise in 2015 to serve in executive roles. He also got his master’s degree in information and data science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Then, Scott got the call to lead Micron’s U.S. site expansion.
Scott said UND gave him a solid foundation for his growth path. “It’s important to learn how to learn. Once you get out of school, learning doesn’t stop.”
The fast pace of his industry has meant that Scott has never stopped learning. “I’ve worked in a lot of different departments and organizations, and I’ve never really worried about the next job. I just poured my heart into what I was doing, and they’ve always asked me to go do something else. Delivering results is what I would say is the key to success.”