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Contintenal looks to future after christening Sumter plant

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New Continental plant Sumter, S.C.
Workers sign a beam that will be placed in the new Continental tire factory in Sumter, S.C.

SUMTER, S.C.—With about 400 government officials, community leaders, tire dealers and company employees in attendance, Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. officially opened its $500 million passenger and light truck tire plant in Sumter Jan. 28.

The company initially hired 390 employees for the plant and plans to add about 200 more this year as the factory ramps up production to 800,000 tires during 2014.

By 2017 the plant is expected to produce 5 million tires annually and by 2021 have capacity to produce 8 million units annually.

The facility eventually will create 1,600 jobs, Conti said.

"The opening of this plant is a very important milestone for our goal of growing our tire business in the United States. This beautiful new facility contains the highest level of machinery and technology to produce the best car and light truck tires possible," said Nikolai Setzer, head of Continental's global tire business and a member of Continental A.G.'s executive board.

Conti executives, along with politicians and dignitaries, toured a tire finishing area in the company's new passenger and light truck tire plant in Sumter. Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas, called the ceremony "recognition of the successful collaboration between business and government."

Nikolai Selzer, Continental Tire
Nikolai Setzer, head of Continental's global tire business.

Among those attending the ceremony were South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, German Ambassador Peter Ammon, and dozens of state and local officials.

In her remarks, Gov. Haley said, "Continental's success in South Carolina isn't an accident, it's what happens when you combine a great product with a strong business environment and skilled work force."

Construction of the plant began in June 2012 on a 500-acre tract of land. Conti said tire production began three months ahead of schedule last October.

The plant is expected to produce both Continental and General tire lines for the original equipment and replacement markets.

At the plant's groundbreaking in March 2012, Project Manager Craig Baartman said the long-range plans for the Sumter tire plant include nearly doubling the factory's size and capacity by 2021 and possibly the addition of truck tire capacity.