September 21, 2011
The announcement from Bridgestone Americas Wednesday of a brand new 1.5-million-square-foot tire manufacturing facility and an expansion of its current plant means a $1.2 billion investment, the single largest capital investment in South Carolina’s history, and the creation of 850 jobs.The investment, which Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young described as •monumental,• surpasses even Boeing’s estimated investment of $800 million. Bridgestone Americas plans to invest $900 million in the new off-road radial tire plant to be built in Sage Mill Industrial Park and $346 million for the expansion of its current facility. News of phase one of the expansions – a $135 million capital investment and 122 new jobs – came in June. Phase two, which means the expansion of an additional 474,000 square feet, was announced Wednesday, a capital investment of $211 million and the creation of roughly 180 jobs.Both projects are expected to break ground in October.The milestones don’t stop there. The new tire plant represents the single largest capital investment the company has made inside the United States and will be the only Bridgestone manufacturing facility in the world outside of Japan, according to Eduardo Minardi, Bridgestone Americas COO, and chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. It is not a leap of faith, but a sound business decision to remain globally competitive, he added.•In this sluggish economy, there are winners and losers. We are definitely going to work hard against the competition to ensure we come out a winner. This investment is evidence of our commitment to be the best,• said Minardi.•The announcement of this greenfield off-road radial tire plant is a major strategic investment by the global Bridgestone Group to enhance its supply systems, improve its sourcing flexibility and further strengthen the Bridgestone Group’s position as the global leader in the off-road radial tire segment,• said Gary Garfield, vice president and senior officer, Bridgestone Corporation, and CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas.Demand for off-road radial tires is steadily increasing as the need for mineral resources grows because of rapid economic expansion across the globe, he continued.The construction of this new off-road radial tire (ORR) plant is consistent with the company’s global sourcing strategy and will strengthen the ability of the global Bridgestone Group to cement its leadership in the market, according to a press release.•What Bridgestone said today is that this Tokyo-based company could have picked anywhere in the country to do this investment, and they picked Aiken County, S.C. That says something about South Carolina, that says something about our state,• said Gov. Nikki Haley.As evidence of its commitment to Aiken County, Bridgestone also announced it is donating $10,000 each to Public Education Partners, Aiken Technical College and USC Aiken.Phase one of the new plant will initially create 330 full-time and contractor jobs. The project is expected to result in approximately 550 new full-time and contractor jobs when fully completed in 2020. The two phases of the expansion project are expected to create more than 300 new full-time and contractor jobs in Aiken County when fully completed in 2015.When fully completed, the two expansion projects will increase the plant’s square footage by 740,000 square feet – to 2.74 million square feet – and result in a rated production capacity of 37,750 tires per day or approximately 13.4 million tires annually.The large and ultra-large tires produced at the new plant, which will sit on 545 acres, will be massive. The rim diameters range from 45 to 63 inches. One ultra-large tire weighs 5 tons and is almost one-and-a-half stories tall. One ultra-large tire can support 22,000 pounds.Garfield said many people worked •tirelessly• to make everything happen, crediting Haley, state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and Young for being incredibly responsive even though the logistics of these projects were rushed.•When it comes to economic development, one thing is clear: South Carolina knows how to do business. Today is a day to celebrate,• he said.Members of Aiken County Council have worked as well to provide fees-in-lieu of and other financial incentives to Bridgestone Americas. County Administrator Clay Killian said the final figures, which are still being negotiated, may be released before Council hears final reading of the resolutions next month.Chairman of the Board of the Economic Development Partnership Gary Stooksbury said the •historic• announcement is proof that the manufacturing industry in the United States is still strong and not to be discounted.•Now, let’s get busy where the rubber meets the road,• he said.The first phase of the 1.5-million-square-foot plant is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013. Equipment will be installed starting in the fourth quarter of 2012. The first production tire is scheduled to be produced by the end of the first quarter of 2014 with a target date of full phase one production by the end of 2015.Construction of the expansion is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013. Manufacturing equipment will be installed in the third quarter of 2012 with the first tire produced in the third quarter.The hiring process will begin next year. Those interested in job opportunities are asked to call (803) 232-2228.Read the timeline of Bridgestone activity since 1997 here.