Work on modernization project to start next week
Construction will begin next week on a 204,000-square-foot expansion to Goodyear’s Gadsden plant with production scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2008. Goodyear officials made the announcement at a ground-breaking ceremony Friday.
The expansion will extend the middle portion of the plant toward Meighan Boulevard. Construction on the building will be completed before the end of the year, plant manager Jim Davis said.
The modernization is not expected to add any jobs but to retain the jobs the plant has. It employs about 1,400.
Goodyear has applied to the city of Gadsden for non-education tax abatements for capital expenditures totaling $125 million for the project, including $118 million in equipment.
Chris Werner, vice president of manufacturing for Goodyear North American Tire, would not say how much the company would be investing here. “We haven’t finalized the full scope of this project yet,” Werner said in an interview after the ground breaking. He would not say if Goodyear would be investing more than $125 million in Gadsden.
“This is the beginning, and we haven’t finalized the full scope of the project,” Werner said. He indicated the scope of the project would be decided within the next 60 days.
Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority, hopes the company will invest more than $125 million in Gadsden. He said local officials have made the case to Goodyear that there would be a better return on the company’s investment here than in any other plant in North America. “I think the event that we’ve had here today evidenced their belief in that assertion,” McCain said.
“We’re here investing because of a great work force and the local and state support,” Werner said in an interview after the ground breaking. “We’re committed to manufacturing in North America, that’s why we’re here,.”
He said all plants in North America have to have an infusion of investment to remain competitive. Werner noted the Gadsden plant is one of the oldest Goodyear plants with the oldest technology. “It had to be modernized or else it wouldn’t have an existence to the marketplace,” he said.
Davis said the Goodyear Task Force worked on obtaining state investment and incentives for the project. The task force included Etowah County Commissioner Tim Choate; Davis; Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden; Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City; state Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla; Rep. Jack Page, D-Gadsden; McCain; Mayor Sherman Guyton, and Bren Riley, vice president of Local 12 of the United Steelworkers.
Also participating in efforts were Dennis Battles, president of Local 12; Gadsden City Council members Ben Reed, Robert Avery and Bob Echols; Etowah County Commissioner Jimmy McKee; and Frankie Davis, the city’s director of economic development and government affairs.
Expansion solidifies plant’s future
Officials say company is here for the long haul
After years of uncertainty and rumors of closing, a 204,000-square-foot expansion and modernization for the Goodyear plant is “a milestone that signals the beginning of many more years of quality tire production here in Gadsden,” plant manager Jim Davis said.
Davis made the comment about the plant’s future at a ground-breaking ceremony Friday attended by Goodyear officials and employees as well as local officials and members of the community.
“Today we’re beginning the future of this facility,” said Chris Werner, Goodyear’s vice president of manufacturing for North American Tire. “It’s almost 80 years old. Today, it’s signifying that we will be here for many years to come.”
Davis said the project is a milestone of “many more years of the Goodyear clock tower remaining a beacon of economic vitality in our community.”
Davis said the expansion would position Goodyear-Gadsden “as a viable entity within the Goodyear North American manufacturing footprint for years to come.” He said the new equipment will enable the plant to be more competitive, and that being competitive in a global economy was the focus of the modernization project.
Werner began meeting a year ago with state and local officials to discuss the need in investing in North American manufacturing and the state investing in the project. “It’s a great statement to say that we’ve got the local leaders and the state of Alabama being part of this investment plan,” Werner said.
He said the modernization of the plant would enable Goodyear to produce more competitive products – “higher value added” products. The expansion means the plant will continue to produce light truck radial tires, passenger tires and mini-spares. “It’s the only way we can maintain a competitive workforce, competitive jobs in North America,” Werner said.
Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. said the expansion was an indication the state not only works with new industry but also believes in working with existing industry. He said he worked with members of the local legislative delegation in obtaining an incentive package from the state to help with the expansion.
Folsom said the legislators were “focused” on winning support for the package during the entire legislative session. He said it was important now and for future generations that the plant would be here. The state has pledged $20 million from a bond issue and $10 million in training funds for workers.
Mayor Sherman Guyton said breaking ground was a celebration of “the beginning of a modernization program that will protect this plant for many years.”
Guyton said Goodyear is a “pillar” of the city’s economic foundation and is the city’s largest employer. He said Goodyear means about $550 million to the state’s gross product.
By Andy Powell
Times Staff Writer