OPELIKA, Ala. (June 2, 2009)—Michelin North America Inc. has begun setting the groundwork for a program aimed at economic development and job creation in the Opelika/Lee County area prior to the closing of its plant there.
The program comes on the heels of the Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker's announcement in April that it will close its BFGoodrich Tire Manufacturing plant in Opelika by Oct. 31 in response to an “unprecedented drop in market demand.”
The 46-year-old Opelika plant, which makes BFG- and Uniroyal-brand passenger tires, has about 1,000 wage and salaried workers. Before it recently began rolling back capacity there, the plant was producing about 14,000 units daily. The company will consolidate production at its BFG plants in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind.
As it gears up for the official program launch on Nov. 1, the company's Michelin Development unit is focusing on new job creation by facilitating low-interest loans—as low as charter bank prime—to qualified start-up, small- and medium-sized businesses. In addition to the financial support, Michelin said it's strengthening the development of new and existing businesses by providing free access to the firm's in-house business expertise.
Michelin Development Director John Tully has started meeting with key business and government leaders in the Opelika community to understand the needs and opportunities in the region, according to the tire maker. He also will lead the establishment of a Michelin Development Steering Committee, specific to the region, which will govern the program.
Over the next few months, Michelin Development will solidify relationships with local banks to provide the low-interest loans that it said are a cornerstone of the program. Additionally, a specific Michelin Development Web site is under construction and will launch before the program officially kicks off in November.
Loans will be available to all sectors of business—except straight retail—at amounts of $10,000 and up and will have 3- to 5- year payment terms.