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Agilent will complete exit from Liberty Lake this fall

The 74-acre Agilent Technologies complex in Liberty Lake and the 250,000-square-foot building were placed on the market in June 2009. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)

Agilent Technologies will close down its Liberty Lake operation by this fall, the company announced today.

At one time Agilent had more than 1,200 area workers and three shifts turning out circuit boards in 2001.

Many of the top engineering jobs paid between $65,000 and $100,000 a year.

By 2004, after cutbacks and corporate changes in direction, Agilent was left with fewer than 300 workers, most of whom were conducting research and development on wireless test equipment.

The shutdown this fall will affect roughly 100 remaining workers, said Niels Fache, the plant’s general manager.

That will be the final curtain for one of the area’s early, premier tech companies. Agilent is the corporate descendent of Hewlett-Packard, which built a large office complex in Liberty Lake in 1978. In 1999 HP divided itself into two groups, and the Liberty Lake site became part of newly named Agilent Technologies.

“It is a difficult moment for us. We are trying to create as many opportunities for our employees as we can,” Fache said.

A small number of Liberty Lake workers will be offered jobs at Agilent’s headquarters in Santa Rosa, Calif.

A handful will be retained and will work from their homes here. The others will receive severance packages and assistance in career choices, Fache said.

Driving the decision was a plan to accelerate commercialization of test equipment to be used in new cell phone devices, the company said. Instead of relying solely on in-house research, Agilent has decided to enter a partnership with a Korean firm, Innowireless, Fache said.

In effect, he said, Agilent is shutting down most of its internal development for that test equipment, which is used mostly by research and development groups and wireless equipment manufacturers.

A final shutdown date will be decided later this spring.

In late 2007, the company announced a reduction that cut the workforce from about 280 to roughly 100.

The original building, erected in 1978, is still on the market; a possible buyer is negotiating a purchase, Fache said.

The last Liberty Lake Agilent workers moved to a leased building at 23321 E. Knox last year.