AKRON — Tire mold maker Universal Tire Molds Inc. plans to move into a new building by the end of July, doubling its space and adding capabilities and employees.
Akron-based Universal will relocate to a 45,000-sq.-ft. facility in the city, according to Programming Manager Ted Smith. Universal purchased a 10-acre parcel from the City of Akron in February and broke ground for the building the week of March 26.
The 34-year-old company is spending about $2 million for the land, construction of the facility and the new workers, Smith said. The firm will invest more than $2 million additionally on computerized equipment and machinery that will allow it to make molds for larger size tires.
The expansion in Akron is necessary as Universal´s South Korean parent, Saehwa Machinery Co. Ltd., continues to build its worldwide capabilities. While the potential for growth in the U.S. is relatively small, there are lots of opportunities on a global level, Smith said.
Besides the U.S., Universal provides tire molds to customers in Western Hemisphere countries such as Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela, as well as Japan.
Saehwa purchased Universal in the fall, gaining the current 18,000-sq.-ft. Akron site and an additional plant in Corinth, Miss. The Korean company-which bills itself as the world´s largest tire mold maker following the Universal acquisition-operates seven other plants in Asia, including three domestic sites and three in China.
The Akron facility has been limited to passenger and light truck tire mold production in the past. The expansion will allow the plant to get into farm and off-the-road tire molds, although not in sizes larger than the operation has the capability to handle, according to Smith. He said Saehwa wants to grow into medium truck tire sizes and medium truck tire molds as well.
Bridgestone/Firestone is Universal´s main customer, but via the relationship with its parent company, it expects its customer base to grow along with its capabilities, Smith said. Saehwa serves several major tire and rubber companies in the Far East besides Bridgestone Corp., including Goodyear, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Kumho Tire Co. Inc., Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. and Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.
A City of Akron release announcing the expansion said Universal, which has about 30 workers in the plant, could add 70 employees within 18 months and increase its Akron work force to 180 within five years.
A second expansion at the new factory could add 40,000 square feet, the city statement said.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said he´s happy Saehwa recognizes the value of staying in Northeast Ohio and tapping the city´s "talented work force."
The project follows a trend in foreign investment that will continue to strengthen manufacturing, increase Akron´s competitiveness globally and provide more job opportunities, he said.
The influx of people and equipment into the new site will be gradual and depend on how business is progressing, Smith said. The company will increase employment to about 60 soon after it moves into the new building, but adding to the staff from that level will take time.
The equipment will be brought in during the next 18 months to two years, Smith said. The city also said the Akron plant will include model making and an aluminum foundry, but Smith said those additions will be made as needed.
While the Akron facility houses primarily tire mold production, the Mississippi plant makes building drums and tire mold containers.
The 15-employee Corinth site has plenty of room to handle a production expansion, but none is planned at this time, Smith said.