November 18, 2014
It has been making tires for customers for a couple of months, but Bridgestone officials marked the opening of its largest manufacturing investment in corporate history on Tuesday. Taiko drummers welcomed Bridgestone executives from Japan to view the nearly $1 billion giant tire plant in Aiken County.
The 1.5 million square foot facility makes off-road radial tires, 49-inch and 63-inch, mainly used in quarry and mining operations. The tires were made solely in Japan, but the new plant in the Sage Mill industrial area was needed to meet North American demand.
Kazuhisa Nishigai, a Bridgestone Corp. board member and the chief operating officer, said the Aiken County project will contribute to the the company’s goal of being the leader in the industry. “We have a laid a significant investment in technology and training to ensure producing” the best giant off the road tire, he said at the ceremony.
Bridgestone has 11 facilities throughout North America. Graniteville has two of them.
Gary Garfield, the chief executive officer for Bridgetsone Americas, said the plant is the biggest investment the company has ever made in manufacturing in the U.S. The previous record holder is the passenger tire facility across the street.
“This plant will help keep Bridgestone front and center in this important market segment throughout the Americas,” he said. “This plant further demonstrates a commitment to our global customer base and our determination to grow our business.”
Garfield said the move to build the mining tires in America was a strategic move by the corporation to be more nimble to changes in customer demand. It should also improve the global supply system.
It took three years from the announcement in the summer of 2011 to open the facility. The plant has 350 employees with a target of 550 over the next couple of years.
Packaged together with an expansion at the passenger tire facility, the company invested $1.2 billion with a pledge of adding 850 more jobs to the county.
“We will create every single one of the 850 jobs that we said we would three years ago,” Garfield said. He said there are 2,000 people that work at the plants now.