Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC) makes polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon), an ultra-pure substance that is the fundamental building block for both solar cells and semiconductor devices. We began operations in Michigan in 1961 and are part of a global, high-tech value chain, exporting 90 percent of our polysilicon outside the United States. Because we are one of a handful of polysilicon suppliers in the world that can meet the purity requirements of the semiconductor industry, our product made in Michigan is found in practically every electronic device produced.
While I’m formally new to Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC), having taken on my current role in November 2017, I’m not really new to HSC. For the past 10 years, I worked for The Dow Chemical Company, which is one of HSC’s owners (we are a joint venture owned by Dow, Corning Inc., and Shin-Etsu Handotai). During that time, I learned what a unique company HSC is, which made me very excited to join last year.
The polysilicon industry has undergone rapid commoditization over the past 10 years. Where we used to sell a highly specialized product that very few companies could make, solar-grade polysilicon now trades on a global exchange. This means success in the solar market is all about cost – and we are pulling every lever to lower our costs so that we can compete globally. A significant example is energy: energy is one of our largest inputs and we are the largest single-point user of electricity in the State of Michigan. In the process of making polysilicon, electricity is akin to a raw material and accounts for more than one-third of our total production costs. We are focused on ways we can lower our cost of energy, as well as continue to use less energy.
For a company that started in 1961, today we are behaving in many ways like entrepreneurs building a new business. We are examining the way we do things and asking ourselves, “Why that way?” It is an exciting time to be part of shaping this company to compete in the marketplace of the future. We feel very positive about our long-term outlook.
WHY I BELONG TO THE CHAMBER
My experience working in Lansing has been that the Michigan Chamber is an influential voice in policy debates and we want to be a contributor to that collective voice. The Chamber’s policy staff works tirelessly on behalf of the members to do what is right for businesses in Michigan. This is not always an easy task – their membership is certainly not always united in its views. However, I have seen that the Chamber is willing to work on finding solutions and because of this, they are at the table when difficult policy debates are happening.
WHY I SERVE AS A VOLUNTEER LEADER
I have found that engaging with other Chamber members has broadened my own abilities and learning. Every company has a different lens through which they view public policy issues, and different ways in which they engage their stakeholders. The Chamber offers many forums where members can informally interact and share thoughts with colleagues outside their own company or industry. For me, these interactions have broadened my perspective and allowed me to bring new viewpoints back to internal discussions. I’m more effective at my job because of these engagements.
A KEY TAKEAWAY
HSC is an exciting place – we are in the middle of Michigan, but we are at the heart of the global high-tech industries of electronics and solar energy. Our people are dedicated to making our community great locally and focused on competing globally.