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Micron's Chief People Officer talks to WAER about company values, community engagement

A 1TB Micron SD Card for a phone.
Gov. Kathy Hochul's office
New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul and Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra sit down and confirm the microchip companies' decision to locate in New York.

Micron is set to start site prep for its facility in Clay this year, but many Central New Yorkers are still just beginning to learn about who Micron is and what they do. Local leaders say our region and the Idaho-born company share many of the same values.

WAER’s Katie Zilcosky recently spoke with Micron’s Chief People Officer April Arnzen, about those values and how they hope to shape the region.

KZ: We've heard a lot that you are a company that shares our region's values. How do you guys see that and interpret that and then kind of actualize it and play it out into the community?

April Arnzen is Micron's Chief People Officer. She oversees the company's people strategy, which includes community impact, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Global Communications and Market/Welsh Photography / Welsh Studio
April Arnzen is Micron's Chief People Officer. She oversees the company's people strategy, which includes community impact, diversity, equity and inclusion.

AA: Central New Yorkers have this incredible tenacity. They are hardworking people. And in our business, in semiconductors, that tenacity, that grit is so important. In our business, we constantly have challenges. We constantly have to overcome significant challenges. We're pushing the limit on technology. We're creating technology, the most advanced technology in the world that no one has ever created before.

And this business is also pretty cyclical, and you know, you've probably heard that semiconductor cycles happen every couple years. And that is absolutely the way this business plays out. There are many ups, and there are downs. And it's not for the faint of heart.

Micron, it's in our DNA. It's in our culture. We embrace top talent challenges because we know that during those challenging times, it's going to make us stronger, and it's going to make us better. And we're going to emerge stronger than our competitors. And if you look at Micron's history, that's exactly what we've done.

KZ: You guys are a tech company—even if it is a little bit of a different kind of tech company that's not the Silicon Valley mold. But there is that narrative for people, especially in Central New York, where we don't have a major tech company operating here currently, to directly reference. There's definitely a narrative around what tech companies can do to a place. Different degrees of displacement or jacking up the cost of living. How are you guys entering this area and trying to address that narrative and disprove it?

AA: I hope everyone feels the approach Micron is taking is very different than what most companies would do. Micron's approach to this investment is quite unique. And I've been with the company for 25 years, and so I've got to see a lot of investments, and I would say this one is incredibly unique. We're approaching this historic investment in a thoughtful and proactive way.

So, we're engaging with the community before we even have a shovel in the ground or have started any construction. And while we're absolutely focused on education and training of our future workforce, which is typically what a company would do, we are thinking about this investment more holistically and addressing barriers that would prevent people from participating in this opportunity, like childcare, like transportation or even housing, as you mentioned.

So, we're partnering with the state and county officials, with developers, with community organizations very early so that we can proactively plan. We know there are going to be challenges, and we just need to identify those challenges and come up with solutions by partnering with everyone in Central New York to figure out how we can address those challenges.

We ourselves do not and should not have all the answers. We're new to Central New York, so we have to listen and learn, and partner. But we do believe it is our responsibility to partner locally to solve these challenges that we know about and future ones that will probably arise while we are building and expanding in Central New York.

You can listen to more of this conversation with Micron's Chief People Officer April Arnzen here.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and time.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.