Taiwan's September earthquake made last year one of Morris Chang's toughest since he started Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in 1986. As the world's biggest contract manufacturer for computer chips, its ability to deliver is vital to Taiwan's high-tech reputation. "Taiwan's credibility was at stake," says the avuncular, pipe-smoking 68-year-old.
It passed with flying colors. Within an hour of the quake, which struck about 2 a.m., TSMC engineers raced to the company's two plants to survey damage and start cleanup. Chang was soon on the phone to Taiwan's Premier, seeking help in getting the power back on. Production fully resumed after only 10 days, and TSMC won kudos from customers for quickly getting lines up again. Net profits this year are forecast at $2 billion on $5 billion in sales, more than double last year.
Chang, who jump-started Taiwan's chip industry in the '80s after returning from a successful career with Texas Instruments, is now advising the government on how to improve Taiwan's universities to produce better entrepreneurs His answer: the private sector.