Gurnee hoping South Korea deals with local tech firm
Gurnee officials say they are hopeful the village can gain an international trade profile after a private meeting between a local technology company and a representative from the South Korean government.
The focus of last week's meeting was AKHAN Semiconductor, which has a Gurnee headquarters facility for production of cutting-edge, diamond-film semiconductors that South Korean companies may be interested in using in consumer electronics, officials said.
Economic Development Director Ellen Dean and Mayor Kristina Kovarik were part of the session. Kovarik said Monday she was honored to meet Korean Trade Investment Promotion Agency Director General Soo Deuk Sohn, and added the trade organization can cut through red tape to assist AKHAN in getting a presence in South Korea.
Gurnee stands to gain more indirect benefits, such as an international profile or job creation, instead of sales tax receipts, Kovarik said. Under an incentive agreement, AKHAN would pay sales tax only on products sold to consumers, not to businesses.
"The more they have to produce, the more demand there is for their product, more jobs are created," she said. "And the more jobs that are created, the more people that live in the area and shop in the area and eat in the area. So, it has a halo effect."
Sohn said working with AKHAN could help his country in the growing science, technology, engineering and technology industry. In a statement issued after what was described as an introductory meeting April 5 at AKHAN's offices, Sohn said the agency has been forging partnerships with businesses across the world.
"We see a lot of potential for AKHAN's technology in Korea in many different industry segments," Sohn said.
Kovarik said South Korea has the potential to be a "key market" for AKHAN's semiconductors. She said she was hopeful about AKHAN's prospects for international trade.
AKHAN founder Adam Khan was among his company's executives to participate in the informal meeting. Khan has touted how use of diamond-film semiconductors, rather than silicon, means devices can be made thinner and operate at higher temperatures and would benefit smartphones and "wearable" technology such as Google Glass.
"The domestic (research and development) investments can now begin to pay global dividends through the market introduction of these much needed high performance, energy efficient and clean technology materials," Khan said.
Dean said AKHAN's plan to incubate other tech businesses could become as important as product sales in Gurnee's quest to become the "Diamond Prairie."
AKHAN, which opened its Gurnee facility in November, has had a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory to develop technology using energy-efficient diamond film as semiconductors. Argonne has granted an exclusive licensing agreement for the technology to AKHAN, which is expected to become the first U.S. company to fully develop the process for industries such as aviation, defense and power.
Kovarik said AKHAN still must go through a village permitting process to install manufacturing equipment in the Gurnee building in a business park just west of the Tri-State Tollway.
Republican U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren of Plano and Robert Dold of Kenilworth, and Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake also attended the meeting with the South Korean trade agency director.