When Micron CEO Mark Durcan speaks, a lot of people parse his words. Whether it's more than 20,000 U.S. employees in Idaho, Utah, Virginia and California, thousands more in the company's Asian operations, or the tens of thousands of shareholders, who anxiously await word of the Boise-based company's acquisitions and/or mergers.
Tuesday afternoon, Durcan gave a rare public address before a packed noontime gathering of the City Club of Boise.
"The buck definitely stops with the CEO," said Durcan, who took over the reins of Micron in the shadow of a February plane crash that claimed the life of Steve Appleton. "Steve carried the responsibilities of being CEO magnificently."
Durcan had originally told Micron officials that he would retire by the end of August, but Appleton's death changed everything. Today, Durcan manages a company that reported 2011 net sales of $8.7 billion.
"Micron's [Research and Development] building at our Boise campus opened with a $150 million investment that will soon total a cumulative investment of over $500 million," said Durcan. "I think it's fair to say that it's the preeminent R and D center in the world."
Durcan said Micron was proud to call Boise "home," but the company is regularly competing in a global economy with 68 percent of its 2011 revenue coming from Asian markets, 11 percent coming from Europe, and 21 percent generated in the Americas. Durcan said historically, more than 40 companies have entered the business of memory-chip manufacturing but most have dropped by the wayside, leaving only eight competitors for Micron.
"We've come a long way, but the business landscape isn't any safer," he said.
In assessing how Micron has survived in the volatile memory industry, now second only to Samsung, Durcan spoke plainly.
"I think we've done a lot of things right over the years," said Durcan. "We've been clever about how we access capital and how we grow."
Durcan particularly pointed to relationships with the University of Idaho and Boise State in developing the next generation of Micron employees. But his comments received more than a few chuckles when he was asked about the state of education in the Gem State.
"Idaho as a community, not Idaho as a state government, is doing what it needs to do," said Durcan.
When City Club moderator Marcia Franklin pressed Durcan to specify what Idaho government should be doing, Durcan bowed his head.
" I knew I shouldn't have come today," he joked.
But Durcan chose his next words carefully.
"I think Idaho government is doing its best to strike a balance," said Durcan, quickly moving to the next subject.
Durcan reminisced about joining Micron in 1985, thinking that the then-small company was "doing some interesting things." Today, he's overseeing a company that traded at $6.20 a share at the closing bell on the NASDAQ exchange.