Our People: Meet REC Silicon’s Ken Johnson

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Aug 10, 2020

An REC Silicon employee in Moses Lake since 1984, Production Planning Manager Ken Johnson hasn’t had to stray far to advance his career. 1984 is the year the polysilicon manufacturing plant opened in Moses Lake. Polysilicon is a component used to make solar panels and electronics.

“REC refines silicon which is the primary raw material for the solar energy industry.  Our process for refining the silicon has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry, which makes it fit well into the “green energy” developments of the future,” Ken told the Grant County Industrial Alliance.

Before cementing his legacy with REC, Ken’s roots span east into Idaho where he is originally from. After graduating from high school in Kellogg, Ken says he worked for a large mining company, but the stint only lasted a few years. Ken then tried his hand in agriculture, working for a small company, but it was only a matter of time before realizing it wasn’t the right fit. But, fate apparently had grander plans for Ken the year REC Silicon began operating.

“I realized that for me personally, I felt more comfortable working for a larger employer that gave me a feeling of a stable and secure environment.  So, 36 years ago when I saw that a large industrial plant was being built in Moses Lake (now REC), I was able to get an entry level job at the plant and my wife and I moved here.”

What may have been initially perceived as ‘just a job’ with REC… turned into a prosperous career with limitless potential.

“When the plant was starting up I got a job as an Operator, from there I moved into a shift supervisor role. Then after a few years I got an opportunity to work on a team to implement a MRP (Material Requirement Planning) computer system that was used for production scheduling, inventory control, sales, shipping and finance.  From there I was able to move into Production Planning and system administration and development of the MRP computer systems.  When we built the Butte Montana plant (and later on when we expanded the Moses Lake Plant) I was able to be very involved with setting up the computer software systems for those facilities as well.”

It’s 2020, and today, Ken assumes an administrative role as a Production Planning Manager.

“My primary responsibilities are working with sales & marketing, shipping, purchasing and the production management folks to develop manufacturing plans to ensure that we are meeting our customer’s needs.”

Since moving to Moses Lake, Ken has raised three daughters. When Ken isn’t working, he’s out on his motorcycle exploring the country, something he’s been doing for over 50 years. Ken says he and his wife have been involved in local churches for over three decades.

Ken then shifted the conversation from REC’s personal impact on him, to its impact on the community.

“For the past 35+ years the REC facility has had a significant positive financial impact to the community. Not only in good paying jobs, but also with directly or indirectly helping to support several other local businesses in the area. In addition, the taxes that the company (and our employees) have paid over the years has had a positive impact on the schools and public services.  Also, the experience that former employees got at the plant have helped many to get good well-paying jobs to take care of their families after they left REC.”

At 63-years-old, retirement is likely looming for the longtime industrial professional, which could open the door for someone who has the same aspirations as he once did.