GADSDEN, Ala. (Sept. 17) — Goodyear broke ground Sept. 14 on a $100 million-plus, two- to three-year modernization and expansion of its 78-year-old passenger and light truck tire plant in Gadsden that will add capacity for higher-value, larger rim-diameter tires.
The project includes a physical expansion of 204,000 square feet to house new tire building equipment capable of handling tires with rim diameters up to 24 inches, according to information presented at the ground-breaking. The existing plant covers 2.8 million square feet.
Goodyear did not quantify its investment in the project or the effect on capacity, but earlier the company indicated in filings for a tax abatement with local officials it estimated spending at about $125 million.
Daily capacity is listed as 25,000 units, with about a fourth of those designated for original equipment customers, according to information from United Steelworkers union Local 12. The largest tires the plant can build now are 18-inch sizes, USW Local 12 President Dennis Battles said.
The project is part of $550 million Goodyear officials pledged to invest in North America during the most recent round of negotiations with the USW, which represents 1,300 employees at the Gadsden plant.
The expansion is not expected to create any jobs but will help keep the jobs now active at the plant. Goodyear is the largest employer in Etowah County, where Gadsden is located. The last major expansion at the plant was in 1977-78, when the Akron-based tire maker converted the factory to radials.
The plant was on Goodyear's short list of factories to close in 1999, but work by local plant management and the union, plus a rebounding U.S. tire market, persuaded Goodyear to keep it open.
According to local news reports quoting Gadsden Finance Director Lisa Rosser, Goodyear's payroll locally is $80 million annually and accounts for $1.6 million of the $12.2 million the city receives in occupational license fees.
The state of Alabama has earmarked $20 million in funding and incentives for Gadsden. Goodyear also is negotiating incentives with the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority, but those talks are still a "work in progress," according to Mike McCain, the authority's executive director.