SemiSouth gains $30M investment

A company which started from research at Mississippi State University will go forward with a major investor aboard with employment and market expansion plans on the horizon.
SemiSouth officials joined state and MSU leaders to announce formally Friday the partnership between the Starkville company and California-based Power Integrations, a company which specializes in high-voltage power conversion.
The locally-originating business focuses on silicon carbide power devices and electronics.
“This is a great example of going from research, to development, to application to commercialization,” Gov. Haley Barbour told the audience gathered at SemiSouth this month. “This silicon carbide process and product of course means that this company fits into the sweet spot of Mississippi’s economic development strategy.”
The $30 million investment on Power Integration’s part will “allow us to quickly expand and serve our customers on a much broader scale,” Kenney Roberts, president and CEO of SemiSouth, said in a statement.
After the announcement, Roberts said the company will double
its current work force, which stands at 74, over two years and manufacturing will be ramped up at the Starkville facility.
Under the deal, SemiSouth will need to meet certain performance metrics over two years, after which time Power Integrations will have the option to buy the company, Roberts said.
Power Integrations is already in power supply technology in a big way, he said.
“If you look at power supply technology for next generation as those supplies go into higher and higher voltages, Power Integrations needs to take advantage of technology much like what SemiSouth has,” Roberts said.
The partnership with Power Integrations will take SemiSouth into the higher-voltage, server farm power supplies, he said.
Power Integrations has pioneered chips which convert the electricity coming into electronic products, said Balu Balakrishnan, president and CEO of Power Integrations. During his comments, he held up a copper and iron transformer, something he said is called an “energy vampire,” because they have two teeth and pull electricity constantly whether the device is in use or not.
“We are helping get rid of these vampires,” he said, then holding up a much smaller item which he says consumes almost no power and when the device is not in use, no energy is wasted.
“Our chip brings these benefits to all kinds of electronic products,” he said, including microwave ovens, televisions, computers, washing machines and “just about anything else that’s electronic that plugs into the wall.”
“SemiSouth is going to be leading the way for Mississippi and the nation in (the) high-efficiency, high-powered energy market,” said U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Third District. The company has become a legitimate competitor in its market, he said. “The growth and market share continues to increase the reliability and access to this technology for numerous industries,” he said.
MSU officials embrace the role “as a significant catalyst for economic development. SemiSouth is our leading example of what can be achieved when spinoff companies emerge from ... university research. The investment by Power Integrations will expand the market for the innovative products created here and create new high-tech jobs for SemiSouth in Starkville,” MSU president Dr. Mark Keenum said, “along with potential additional manufacturing opportunities here in our great state.”
Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, talked about the message Friday’s announcement sends.
“It says an awful lot for the capabilities of the Golden Triangle and Mississippi State University. We are a significant player in technology in the South and we intend to grow more of the same,” said Maynard.