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Tracy Frank, Published May 14 2009

UPDATED: Alien Technology closing Fargo facility, Grindberg blames economy

UPDATED 12:24 p.m.

FARGO - Alien Technology confirmed plans today to close its Fargo inlay manufacturing facility, located in the North Dakota Sate University Research and Technology Park, by early June.

Alien was backed with millions of taxpayer dollars and once heralded as a future cornerstone of high-tech business in Fargo and North Dakota.

The company expects to determine whether the closure will be permanent within the next few months, said Victor Vega, Alien Technology marketing director.

Alien, headquartered in Morgan Hill, Calif., manufactures “smart tags,” ultra-high frequency radio frequency identification products and services provided to industries such as retail, manufacturing, defense and pharmaceuticals.

Alien’s Fargo manufacturing facility was responsible for production of its patented and proprietary strap-based inlay assembly process.

“This unique process is an exceptional solution for high volume inlay production in a consistent market, but in this period of inconsistency and lower market volumes, an alternate process needed to be considered,” Vega said.

Alien is undergoing a transition to a flip chip-based assembly process, Vega said.

Tony Grindberg, executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park, where Alien is located, said he is thankful for Alien’s commitment to launch a high-tech company in North Dakota, but he understands the company’s decision to close its Fargo facility.

“We understand the current economic recession has created a situation where Alien needs to make tough decisions to cut overhead and maintain their respective place in the market of RFID,” Grindberg said.

More than 20 people will lose their jobs, Grindberg said, adding that the tech park is helping displaced employees.

Nearly all displaced employees have found employment, with help from Job Service North Dakota, Vega said. Two are still looking and one of those two expects an offer this week, Vega said.

Alien Technology broke ground on its 50,000 square-foot facility in October, 2005. Predictions back in 2003 that the facility would produce 1,100 jobs and a $55 million payroll by the end of the decade never materialized. Last fall, the facility employed 35 people.

“We expect to continue bringing high technology industry and research to the Red River Valley Corridor and the Research and Technology Park by enhancing public and private partnerships,” Grindberg said. “We will continue to create economic value in a knowledge-based economy and build upon our existing Centers of Excellence.”

Read more in Friday’s Forum and check back with inforum.com for more on this story throughout the day.