OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 19) — Bridgestone/Firestone produced the last tire Dec. 16 at its Oklahoma City tire plant, a little more than 37 years after the first tire came off the factory's assembly line.
The tire maker said earlier this year that it planned to close the facility because it wasn't profitable and made tires in the low-end of the market where demand was decreasing and competition from low-cost imports increasing.
BFS earlier in the year had employed 1,400 at the Oklahoma City plant with capacity to make 43,500 passenger and light truck tires a day. Its main product line was 15-inch tires with some 16-inch lines, and the capability to manufacture down to 13-inch tires, said Steve Brooks, BFS vice president of manufacturing operations.
Layoffs started in October, when 400 workers were let go, and daily production at the end was 26,200 tires, according to Brooks.
The United Steelworkers union, which represented 1,200 workers at the factory, had made some overtures about trying to save the plant after the original announcement. A BFS spokesman said, however, that given market conditions, costs and competition, the task of trying to save the plant was just too insurmountable.
Brooks said BFS will have a small staff at the plant throughout next year disassembling equipment. Some of the items will be moved to other Bridgestone facilities while the rest either will be sold or scrapped. He added that a real estate group will list the plant for sale, "either with equipment or with the equipment removed."