ClassOne recognized for export success

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Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice presents the 2018 Exporter of the Year award to Byron Exarcos, CEO of ClassOne Technology, at their facility in Evergreen on Wednesday. ClassOne designs, manufactures, tests and ships semiconductor equipment from its facility while sourcing key supplies from other Montana businesses. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice visited ClassOne Technology’s Evergreen plant on Wednesday for a ceremony recognizing the company as the state’s 2018 Exporter of the Year.

Chief Executive Officer Byron Exarcos doesn’t know if the commerce department gives consecutive awards to one business, but he said ClassOne will be a contender again in 2019. ClassOne shipped $6 million in semiconductor equipment outside the United States in 2018, and has already surpassed that figure in exports before the year is half through.

“It’s a testament to this team,” Exarcos said. “This is one of the best engineering teams in the U.S. This couldn’t have happened to a better group of people.”

ClassOne designs, builds, tests and ships production equipment used to manufacture microchips at its facility on Cooperative Way. ClassOne recently added a technical development center, with a team led by John Ghekieri, south of Kalispell.

Exports are an increasing source of revenue for ClassOne Technology. In 2016, the company took in $2.2 million from foreign sales, with $3.5 million in 2017 and $6 million in 2018. During those two years, ClassOne also grew from 45 to 75 employees in Kalispell.

Exarcos said he expects ClassOne Technology, a sister company to Atlanta-based ClassOne Equipment, to cross $20 million in revenue this year, with 40 to 50 percent of that coming from exports.

Jason Manger is vice president of operations at ClassOne Technology. He attributes the growing sales of ClassOne products worldwide to the service it provides at every step of an order, including engineering and design, assembly, testing, shipping and long-term technical support.

“Penetrating the markets is hard, especially in places like Asia, but once you get the tools in, you get more orders,” he said.

Flags of the purchasing country are placed on each machine under construction in ClassOne’s manufacturing area. ClassOne’s first shipment bound for Japan — a $2 million piece of equipment— sits next to a $500,000 machine headed to South Korea. Buyers of ClassOne products are also in France, China and Italy, with a customer from Israel recently visiting the plant. In March, ClassOne announced the sale of its Solstice S4 system to Philips Photonics in Ulm, Germany.

ClassOne opened its Kalispell facility in 2014, when Exarcos saw a void in companies providing wet-processing tools for emerging technologies such as the electrical vehicle, the internet of things and 5G. He said the company’s “precise vision” for supplying machines that create microchips between 75 and 200 millimeters has been key to its success.

“These are people who want to conquer and win this market,” Exarcos said. “We have a very defined vision, we want to be the global leaders.”

Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or hgaiser@dailyinterlake.com.

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