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BFG, IN A SMALL WAY, RETURNS TO RUBBER FIELD

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Welcome back to the rubber industry, B.F. Goodrich. OK, so it's not like the old days. BFG won't be challenging the top tire makers, nor be a force in industrial rubber products. But it is returning to the rubber industry—albeit in a relatively small way—via its merger with Coltec Industries.

Coltec's primary business is aerospace and industrial products. Goodrich sought the combination with those product lines in mind, since the company has re-invented itself as a performance materials manufacturer and supplier of aircraft systems.

In the world of rubber, however, Coltec is best known for its Garlock Sealing and Boston Weatherhead operations. Coltec's sales of seals, sheet rubber and conveyor belts rank it as the 72nd-largest U.S. rubber product maker.

Granted, $75 million in rubber goods sales isn't all that significant when the ``new'' B.F. Goodrich will have total sales of $5.5 billion. Still, it's ironic BFG is returning somewhat to its roots after struggling for years to convince the investment community it is out of the tire and rubber goods field.

That effort, assuredly, is part of the reason Goodrich will shut down its Akron-area headquarters and relocate to Coltec's home base in Charlotte, N.C. By reputation, if not reality, Akron still has a rubber flavor to it.

The only surprise from the Goodrich-Coltec deal is that the merged company will retain the Goodrich name. Maybe that's the next change.