NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 27)—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. will close its Decatur, Ill., tire plant by the end of 2001, citing "the need to reduce production capacity in the U.S. to more effectively match tire production to demand." John McQuade, division vice president of Bridgestone/Firestone manufacturing operations, said the company's tire plants are not running at capacity because of a decline in demand and the current economic downturn. The company gave a six-month closure notice to the United Steelworkers of America union, which represents production workers in Decatur. Bridgestone/Firestone said it wants to start bargaining with the union regarding the closure immediately. The Decatur factory employs about 1,500 people. The plant is the company's oldest U.S. tire facility, having been built in 1942 and acquired by Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1963. The Decatur factory came under fire in 2000 when the company's recall on tires fitted onto Ford Explorers was announced and it was revealed that a large number of those tires were manufactured there.