Applied Materials Expands into Former Shopko

The semiconductor-plating manufacturer will add more than 200 jobs to Kalispell amid growing demand

By Maggie Dresser
The defunct Shopko in Evergreen is converted into a manufacturing space for Applied Materials on Dec. 14, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As technology advances and global semiconductor demand rises, the Kalispell branch of Applied Materials is expanding into its third facility in the Flathead after recently purchasing the 100,000-square-foot former Shopko in Evergreen to ramp up production.

With more than 600 employees in the Flathead Valley alone, the expansion will add another 200, primarily in the manufacturing sector and will grow its total square footage to 350,000 among all three buildings.

“Semiconductors are more important to the global economy right now more than at any other time, impacting every area of the economy,” Montana Site General Manager Brian Aegerter said. “Companies are rethinking engineering and consumers are rethinking (products). These trends are irreversible.”

The semiconductor-plating manufacturer has seen significant growth over the last 18 months, adding nearly 8,000 employees to all branches, which includes facilities in Austin and Singapore, shipping to companies in the United States, Europe and Asia.

“Semiconductor demand is off the charts,” Aegerter said. “We are trying to scale Applied Materials so we can take advantage of that demand and enable our customers.”

Amid a nationwide staffing shortage, managers at Applied Materials are working to recruit 150 manufacturing positions with the remaining 50 ranging from engineers to procurement logistics. The company is offering competitive wages starting at roughly $17 an hour for entry level manufacturing positions.

“Our first tactic is to be the best place to work not only from a wage standpoint but from a benefit standpoint,” Aegerter said.

In addition to a benefits package, the company also offers employee stock purchase plans and managers are working to provide housing and childcare in the valley while working to recruit Flathead Valley Community College and high school students.

Aegerter attributes Kalispell’s high quality of life and outdoor recreation as a major workforce attractant.

Human Resources Business Partner Mary McLoy said Applied Materials is still working to fill about 80 positions at its existing two local campuses, primarily for manufacturer technicians and supply chain logistics, and the company is steadily hiring 15 to 30 employees each month.

“We’ve had a lot of luck hiring engineers,” Aegerter said. “Mechanical, electrical, software and process engineers. Some are coming from Montana and a lot are coming from areas like Texas, Boise and the northwest.”

Applied Materials will continue holding regular hiring events in January.

“Our goal is to attract the most diverse talent and to be a company that values culture and diversity,” McLoy said.

Some employees at the current two campuses in Kalispell will begin transitioning to the new location this March, gradually increasing over the following 18 months.

The former Shopko, which closed in 2019, was an ideal building for manufacturing, Aegerter said, because of its massive open floor plan with tall ceilings to house equipment, some of which reaches 14 feet. Crews are working to finish construction and prepare the facility to operate a high volume of electricity while enhancing energy efficiency.

According to the Forbes Green Growth 50 list, Applied Materials cut back emissions by 16% while gaining 39% in profits since 2017.

For more information, visit www.appliedmaterials.com.