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Titan remains open to bidding on Goodyear plant

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QUINCY, Ill.—Titan International Inc. remains open to making a bid on Goodyear's Amiens Nord plant in France, but some hurdles still remain in the way of a deal taking place in the near future.

For the time being, Titan will wait and review a severance pact between Goodyear and the Comite d'Etablissement d'Amiens Nord (CGT) labor union representing about 1,200 workers at the factory.

Goodyear reached an agreement with CGT Jan. 22. Details were not released but union officials at the farm and passenger tire plant said the package was worth more than previously offered.

However, various government regulations covering plant closures in France still must be dealt with before the plant can be put on the selling block.

Once those things are accomplished, Titan will need to re-establish relationships with government and union officials while working out a deal with the Akron-based tire maker on the vacant plant if it chooses to move ahead on the planned acquisition.

Goodyear and the CGT had been involved in a bitter dispute that spanned more than four years and included lawsuits, a plant sit-in and union members holding two senior plant managers hostage. When the severance deal was finally reached, the lawsuits were dropped and the factory ceased producing tires.

"We're not operating the plant now," a Goodyear spokesman said. "Our plans have been to close it ... and although it's technically not closed yet, it's not making tires."

Goodyear said it is pleased it can now move ahead and focus on supporting factory employees.

Goodyear first notified workers that it intended to scale back production at the site in 2009. The firm issued a plant closure notice last year after failing to negotiate a new contract with the union or find a buyer for the tire facility.

Titan has been interested in acquiring the complex for some time and attempted to do so in 2011. But discussions broke down with the union, who had the support of some government officials.

That may change now with the severance agreement approved. Maurice Taylor, Titan's chairman and CEO, said Titan will hold off doing anything until after Goodyear and the union complete their business.

"I've always said we'll look to buy the plant ... but Goodyear isn't done yet," he said. "When they are finished, we can step in and see what we can do. I think Goodyear would rather have a farm tire plant there" than one that makes automotive tires.

Goodyear employed about 1,200 at the facility, but Taylor said his plan—with Titan just producing farm tires—would call for about 330 employees.