PHOENIX — While the semiconductor industry was flat, at best, in 1996, plastics processors that serve that industry say they are going strong.
Gary Grandbois, vice president and chief analyst for Dataquest, a San Jose, Calif.-based market research firm, said slowing markets and price declines caused about a 9 percent drop in sales in the semiconductor industry last year.
Yet firms such as Motorola Inc., Intel Corp. and Sumitomo Sitix are keeping plastics fabricators in the Southwest in business.
Jeffrey W. Hull, founder of Automated Environmental Solutions, said the semiconductor slowdown has not hurt his company even though that segment represents 85 percent of his business.
``It's been good to us,'' he said. ``We're not part of this downturn. We're going to have a very good year.''
The Tempe, Ariz., fabricator employs eight.
Clean Room Plastics Inc., another fabricator in Tempe, also makes clean-room support equipment used by semiconductor firms. Bryan LaFlam, vice president of the 4-year-old firm, said that being in a small niche has helped make him successful.
``We're a small segment of the plastics manufacturing industry,'' said LaFlam. ``There are not many people who do what we do.''
LaFlam said he has noticed the slowdown this year, ``but we've taken this time to do internal things such as expanding our building to 10,000 square feet and adding an in-house clean room.''
Grandbois attributes the slowdown to a ``long-overdue adjustment'' in the supply and demand equation. ``Supply came on strong just as demand slacked off in January'' of 1996, he said. Grandbois predicts 14 percent growth in semiconductors this year.
Dave Ring, general manager of Fluoroware Inc.'s Wafer Management division in Chaska, Minn., agrees. He said the slowdown has had little effect on his firm despite soft demand. Though the unit's growth has leveled off, he sees phenomenal growth potential.
``We're trying to be diligent and consider this cycle a normal part of our business, catch our breath and get prepared for the next wave of growth,'' he said.