Cutthroat competition, sweetheart deals, size used to leverage a better bargain. Sounds like a typical day in the rubber industry, where fierce competition is the norm. That's not the subject, though: The issue is city and state governments fighting to lure or keep rubber companies within their borders. Activity in Akron concerning Goodyear is the latest example of this phenomenon.
No American city has lost more rubber plants and offices to the South in recent decades than the old Rubber Capital. Akron now is trying to keep Goodyear, its most important tie to the rubber industry, from wandering off.
The city has offered $1.5 million in tax abatement to create more than 200 jobs at Goodyear's technical center and a new high-tech training center, and the Ohio state government is willing to provide a $4 million incentive package.
The proposals make sense for Akron. No one expects a revival of tire production in the city. But the jobs at stake are high-paying, professional positions that suit the polymer research environment of the city.
If Akron officials sat back and did nothing, the city could lose its hold on Goodyear. There are plenty of reasons for Goodyear to remain in the community—a relatively low-cost environment where it has the infrastructure and a talent pool it needs. Indeed, competitor Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has kept the old Firestone research and development center in Akron, despite wide expectation it eventually would move to Tennessee.
But it's a bottom-line world. Goodyear has stated it is ``weighing other options,'' and could choose to move people, facilities or investment dollars to other locations.
Municipalities or states that want to keep their home-grown rubber business need to recognize they're in a global contest where history and nostalgia have no place.