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KLA’s Ann Arbor Story Continues

Jan 17, 2023 7 min read

One year after its ribbon cutting ceremony, KLA’s state-of-the-art Ann Arbor, Michigan campus is more than meeting expectations as the second U.S. headquarters. Fast becoming a blueprint for KLA’s global workplaces, the Ann Arbor campus reflects the company’s commitment to its employees, innovation and the environment. An ultramodern workplace surrounded by a beautiful woodland, the site continues to grow a diverse workforce in a creative setting to develop industry-leading solutions for the global semiconductor industry.

“The campus is incredible. We chose this location for its proximity to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan and because we wanted employees to be surrounded by wilderness in a way that would support wellbeing and enhance their creativity.

John McLaughlin, global ESG leader and Ann Arbor site lead

By mid-December 2022, more than 570 employees across research and development, customer engagement and corporate functions were working at the 230,000-square-foot site on 18 acres of woodland a short drive from downtown Ann Arbor. With nearly 180 new employees joining in 2022, the Ann Arbor location is very close to the company’s goal of 600 for the facility.

Most employees work in a hybrid arrangement and are enjoying the new facility.

“KLA Ann Arbor is the best office space of my career – and a nice home away from home with its bright open spaces, comfortable couches, traditional work desks, focus rooms for privacy and state-of-the-art conference rooms,” says Christy Brandt, senior IT project/portfolio manager, who joined KLA in 2020. “I’m creative by nature, and the kind of space we have here in Ann Arbor brings ideas to the surface. I love the building’s connection with the natural surroundings – and especially the conference rooms that look out on the treetops and the walking path through the woods.”

Set against the stunning background of a large wooded area with walking trails, the Ann Arbor campus is built to inspire creativity as these employees discovered at the site’s first hackathon in autumn 2022.

Site Focuses on R&D, Engineering and Corporate Functions

Key to KLA’s decision to locate in Ann Arbor is the region’s pool of engineering and technical talent. The largest employee segment in Ann Arbor is the engineering teams.

The Ann Arbor site has electronics and hardware labs as well as 15,000 square feet of cleanroom space that support research and development and customer programs. Lab and cleanroom space is expected to grow to 51,000 square feet in 2023.

“I spend most of my time in the cleanroom, working with one of our reticle inspection tools (FlashScan™)” says Ruchi Aggarwal, product development engineer. “I’m grateful to work in a state-of-the-art lab space that is efficient and highly functional. Working in such a well-equipped lab really makes my job easier.”

The location was chosen not only for Ann Arbor’s cultural attractions and quality of life, but also for its proximity to the University of Michigan (U-M) and the region’s large pool of technical, professional and experienced talent across disciplines and functions. U-M professors and students have opportunities to visit the site and establish technology collaborations, and the company can recruit locally for artificial intelligence, algorithm, mechanical, electrical, software and systems engineering positions from the state’s universities or from the automotive sector to apply their experience to the technology industry.

Truly Becoming KLA’s Second U.S. Headquarters

From the start, planners envisioned a multifaceted facility that would serve as a second headquarters.

“Opening a second headquarters of KLA’s Silicon Valley base in the Midwest was a novel and refreshing concept to me when I was first approached about working for the company,” says MaryBeth Wilkinson, executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary, who has worked for KLA since 2020. “That KLA wanted to base its global legal department out of Ann Arbor while the CEO and CFO are located in California told me this is a company working as a seamless team. That is not your typical seating arrangement for the C-suite. Moreover, it speaks of a broad and inclusive way to approach the managing of a company, valuing talent that is not just from Silicon Valley. The discipline and rigor of Silicon Valley mixed with Midwestern talent and work ethic — that is diversity.” 

In addition to engineering teams, employees from multiple corporate functions such as human resources, finance, communications and supply chain work in Ann Arbor.

KLA Executive Team in Ann Arbor for ribbon cutting in November 2021: Rick Wallace (left), president and CEO; MaryBeth Wilkinson, executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary; Bobby Bell, executive vice president and chief strategy officer; Oreste Donzella, executive vice president, electronics, packaging and components; Bren Higgins, executive vice president and chief financial officer; John Van Camp, executive vice president and chief human resources officer; Ahmad Khan, president semiconductor process control; Brian Lorig, executive vice president, KLA global services; Ben Tsai, chief technical officer and executive vice president, corporate alliances.

“The idea of establishing Ann Arbor as a second U.S. headquarters is, ‘Where can we grow in the future and find new pipelines of talent?’” John explains. “We’re not just hiring engineers – experienced corporate talent from multiple functions are also joining us to run global teams from Ann Arbor, and that’s part of what we mean when we talk about a second headquarters.”

Susan Wagner, vice president, global workplace services, says having a second headquarters in Ann Arbor represents commitment and investment by KLA to the region. In many instances, she says, having a second headquarters in the Midwestern United States can enhance the geodiversity of its workforce and offer the kind of flexibility of location today’s job seekers prefer when key functions are not limited to a single corporate headquarters.

“KLA really designed the campus to develop the future of what our workforce should look like,” says Susan, who joined the company three years ago.

Six KLA vice presidents work in Ann Arbor, and seven of KLA’s global corporate teams are now based at the location: legal, cybersecurity, global workplace services, global communications and brand, environmental, social and governance (ESG), KLA Foundation and SEC reporting.

“The presence of these leaders and corporate teams signals the company’s commitment to the Ann Arbor site as we continue to build our business strategy and invest in the region,” Susan says.

Plus, MaryBeth observes, the site is a really nice place to spend a big chunk of one’s day.

“The building is exquisitely done, the talent is top shelf and the values are, well, perfectly KLA,” she says. “What a lovely, rewarding place to work – Keep Looking Ahead.”

KLA Ann Arbor Employees in the Community

Although many Ann Arbor employees are new to the company, the Michigan team has worked hard to develop community partnerships over the past four years since the company initially established a presence in Ann Arbor.

During holiday season 2022, Ann Arbor human resources (HR) organized 10 employees to cook dinner for almost 200 underserved children at the Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG) in Detroit, where students learn about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), get homework assistance and participate in fitness classes.

The HR team and the KLA Foundation partnered to make a year-end donation of $10,000 to DBG, and the KLA Foundation made an additional grant of $25,000 to the STEAM lab, which introduces students to multiple disciplines, helps strengthen foundational technical skills and exposes them to career opportunities

In spring 2022, KLA Foundation and Ann Arbor employees and their families walking in the American Heart Association’s 2022 Washtenaw County Heart and Stroke Walk contributed almost $30,000, including donations, company match and over $4,600 from participants.

In the summer, employees worked with a community organization of local businesses and residents to volunteer for a cleanup of Baxter Park as part of an ongoing initiative to improve, enhance and maintain Ann Arbor’s parks.

Also in 2022, the site’s A2C3 Community Giving Grants program, which integrates community and engagement at the site, worked with the KLA Foundation to award $115,000 to organizations in the Ann Arbor area, including the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts, Motor City STEAM, Food Gatherers, Ozone House, Children’s Center, Michigan Council of Women in Technology, Neutral Zone and Friends of the Rouge.

Working Productively in an Environment of Comfort and Collaboration

There are business reasons for designing an employee-friendly site. Employees say Ann Arbor’s amenities coupled with internal networking builds positive working relationships and professional networks – keeping them engaged and productive.  

“By coming to the office, there’s an inherent opportunity to meet with colleagues you wouldn’t ordinarily work with, share a meal with friends in the cafeteria and develop your network,” Christy says. “In my role or any leadership role, building positive relationships with people you work with is essential, because when we face challenging situations, we’ve already established the ties that will help us get through business problems together.”

Christy Brandt (left) describes KLA Ann Arbor’s cafeteria as a “high quality restaurant” that’s “so good and so affordable” that she often buys dinner and takes it home to her family, adding, “My son always asks if I can bring home brownies.” Sarah Nelson gets a spot from in-house trainer Amanda Wasielewski in the site’s gym.

Sarah Nelson, senior technical recruiter who came to KLA in 2021, believes the Ann Arbor site’s open floorplan encourages interaction and helps employees forge productive working relationships.

“The building’s design reinforces KLA’s whole culture of collaboration,” she says. “Whether working at a desk without tall partitions and talking with a colleague next to you or having a business meeting with someone near one of the windows overlooking the wooded area outside, our setting here in Ann Arbor and KLA’s overall culture fosters engagement and productivity.”

Guy Parsey, a research scientist who has worked for KLA since 2019, appreciates the commercial-grade espresso machines with unlimited supply of coffee beans and the covered parking during Michigan’s snowy winters and hot summers. He explains, “My creativity and productivity are functions of these amenities combined with working side-by-side among colleagues on days we arrange to be in the office on the same days.”

Below, KLA employees shared the Ann Arbor facility with their spouses and children during Family Day.

More than 50 employees prepared appetizers, main courses and desserts from their own culture and heritage to celebrate the 2022 holiday season with a potluck luncheon.

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