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TDK workers’ job future brighter

Engineers at TDK Semiconductor’s Nevada City Design Center may not have to look too far for work when the center closes next month.

Two companies that are expected to open new design centers here in Nevada County have been vying for members of the TDK computer chip design team.



While prospects looked bleak when TDK announced in October it was closing its 20-year-old Nevada City Design Center, they have brightened considerably for many of the its 49 employees.




By the time the design center on New Mohawk Road closes on March 22, as many as 40 of the center’s employees are expected to have jobs, said Grant Shatto, the center’s engineering director. So far, 35 center employees have lined up work.

Shatto said two companies have new design centers in the works for the area that would split the TDK design team roughly in half, with each company hiring 12-14 employees each: Time Domain Corp., a Huntsville, Ala., communications technology firm; and SliceX Inc., a Salt Lake City chip design firm.

“People are upbeat,” said Shatto, a design center veteran who has taken a position at the SliceX center as a manager of a physical layout team. “There are still people who have offers generated behind the rest of us, but there’s generally a real positive attitude here that things worked out for the best.”

The companies started making offers to employees in January, Shatto said. Salary offers were comparable with TDK.

Four of the design center’s employees will take positions with TDK Semiconductor in Mountain View and Tustin, the firm’s headquarters. TDK employs 220 people.

TDK made offers to a number of employees, Shatto said, and many agonized whether they should remain in Nevada County or move to Southern California or the Bay Area to stay with the company, and where they might get stock options if the company ever went public.

“Staying here was what was more important to us,” Shatto said. He noted that TDK has been generous to the employees, providing outplacement assistance and other help for their job search. The company has also kept its office open until March 22.

“Many companies would close their doors, say you’re done,” Shatto said. “That hasn’t happened here.”

SliceX is looking for office space of 5,000 to 6,000 square feet in western Nevada County, but has not yet decided on a location, said Shatto.

SliceX helped TDK design a modem chip and was familiar with the Nevada City design center. SliceX is a center that develops and markets integrated and application circuits and has completed projects for AMD, PVS, Cirrus Logic and other major high-tech companies.

The privately held company was founded in 1996, and has grown rapidly to $10 million in annual revenues and 30 employees. The company plans to double its size this year.

Time Domain is a privately held company with 140 employees that develops communications technology. It is working on a wireless technology that fuses communications, radar and tracking capabilities into a chip set.

Beth Boone, Time Domain’s director of corporate communications, said the company is initiating a design team that is not at the company’s headquarters, but said it is not the company’s policy to talk about specifics until the facility opens.

Jackie Snyder, a former TDK employee who will take a position as vice president of engineering for the SliceX design center, said a list of 20 companies were contacted about the availability of the design team, and people used their professional networks to get the word out in a team effort.

“There are a lot of folks at TDK who really want to live here, so there was a lot of effort put forward to see if we can find an alternative,” Snyder said.


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