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KLA opens new R&D office in Ann Arbor

The global capital equipment company is looking to harness the engineering talent at U-M and power a brighter future with tech.

Wallace KLA Enlarge
KLA CEO and President, Rick Wallace, welcomes attendees at the official opening of KLA's temporary research and development office in Ann Arbor.

On June 11, 2019, KLA opened its temporary research and development office just up the road from the North Campus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. KLA is a global capital equipment company that inhabits the nexus of electron and photon optics, sensor technology, and artificial intelligence. From raw wafer to next-gen chip to world-altering ideas, they work to advance the future of tech.

KLA ribbon cutting Enlarge
From left: Bobby Bell (KLA chief strategy officer), Rick Wallace (KLA CEO and President), and John McLaughlin (KLA’s Ann Arbor site leader).

KLA is currently building a $150M second headquarters in Ann Arbor Technology Park – off Woodridge Avenue and Dixboro Road in Ann Arbor Township – which will open in 2021. They created a $3 million endowment for graduate fellowships and purchased the land for their campus from U-M in 2018. They’re looking to hire 500 to 600 new employees for the new sites, with about half being engineers.

KLA’s main headquarters will remain in Silicon Valley, but they’ve been planning to open a second headquarters for some time. They considered nearly 400 possible sites throughout the U.S., and they ultimately chose Ann Arbor due to its proximity to a large international airport (Detroit), its high quality of life, reasonable cost of living, and especially its proximity to high-caliber engineering talent.

“We hope that we’ll recruit hundreds of students from U-M,” said John McLaughlin, KLA’s Ann Arbor site leader, who previously served as the Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations for the College of Engineering. “That was part of the reason why we chose Ann Arbor.”

President and CEO Rick Wallace, who graduated from U-M in 1982 with a BSE in Electrical Engineering, says he hopes to strengthen ties with other universities in Michigan as well as the general community.

“If you want to go where there’s growth, go to Ann Arbor,” Wallace said.

VIDEO: More and more Silicon Valley companies are choosing to expand in Michigan. Michigan Economic Development Corporation highlights the benefits of choosing Michigan, and talks to KLA CEO and President Rick Wallace (BSE EE '82) about why KLA is excited to establish a permanent base in Ann Arbor.

As it becomes easier to work remotely, Wallace stressed the benefits of being able to live in a midwestern community but still be able to work on cutting edge technology that will help shape the future.

“I believe technology can make the world a better place, and KLA is at the forefront of that,” Wallace said.

Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, and Mingyan Liu, the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, both attended the grand opening of the temporary site.

“Having KLA right next to our campus is great in facilitating closer collaborations in both research and education,” Liu said. “It also provides a great employment opportunity for our graduates who’ve grown very fond of Ann Arbor and wish to stay here.”

ECE Expeditions visited KLA’s Silicon Valley headquarters this past spring, and students voted KLA as one of their favorite visits of the trip.

“KLA seemed like a very fun company to work for,” said Eric Vessecchia. “I want to stay in Michigan after I graduate, and when I heard they’re expanding to Ann Arbor, I immediately applied for an internship there.”

KLA, founded in 1976, employs 10,000 people at 18 sites around the globe.

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KLA Corporation, whose President and CEO is ECE alum Rick Wallace, held the grand opening of its newest North American headquarters in Ann Arbor on November 5th.