GREENVILLE, S.C.—Michelin North America Inc. is investing $90 million to upgrade equipment and expand production capacity at its two tire plants in Lexington, S.C.
The investment—announced to local public officials and development agencies June 19 in Lexington—is in addition to the $110 million committed to the operations there made last August as part of a $350 million upgrade and expansion project at the tire maker's South Carolina sites.
“Lexington has been a great place for Michelin to produce some of the best tires in the world,” said Jim Micali, Michelin North America chairman and president. “And we hope that Mich-elin has been equally good for Lexington County.”
The Lexington site includes a radial passenger and light truck tire plant that opened in 1981 and a radial earthmover/off-the-road tire facility unveiled in 1998. Michelin did not break down the investment by plant, and a company spokesman said it is unknown at this point how the capacity figures will change.
The combined capacity at the two plants is about 24,000 units per day, according to Rubber & Plastics News' 2007 Global Tire Report.
The expansion is under way, though the spokesman said there isn't a timeline yet as to when it will be completed. Michelin said last summer that the South Carolina upgrades would be finished by the end of 2011.
The two Lexington plants employ 1,700—1,365 at the passenger tire facility and 335 at the earthmover factory—the spokesman said, and the new project will add an as-yet undisclosed number of new jobs. The entire South Carolina initiative will add about 100 jobs over the life of the expansion, Michelin said.
The projects in Lexington are geared to meet high demand for Michelin products in growing markets, the spokesman said. Demand is great for the high-performance tires made at the passenger tire plant, and the earthmover plant is undergoing its second major expansion since it opened 10 years ago because demand for large earthmover tires is so huge, he said.
The projects include modernization of existing production lines and the addition of new machinery. The expansion at the earthmover plant announced in August will add more than 100,000 square feet to the building.
A separate investment of $85 million to boost capacity of earthmover tires by 50 percent started in 2006. “We simply can't make these large mining and construction tires quickly enough,” Micali said when announcing the expansions last year.
Since 1981, Michelin has invested more than $900 million in its Lexington operations, the company said.