AKRON (Feb. 18, 2010)—Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C. broke ground today on its $100 million state-of-the-art technical center in Akron.
“From the first non-skid tread to the Firestone balloon tire, some of the world's most creative, innovative concepts in the tire industry have come from behind these doors and down the street at our technical center,” said Mark Emkes, chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas Inc. “There is no better place to continue our proud tradition of innovation than right here in Akron.”
Emkes, who last week announced he is retiring from the company Feb. 28, was joined in the groundbreaking ceremony by incoming Bridgestone Americas Chairman Asahiko “Duke” Nishiyama; Bob Handlos, BATO vice president of product development; Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland; and other local elected officials.
The new facility, which Bridgestone Americas announced in 2008 it would build in Akron after evaluating other locations—including its home base in Nashville, Tenn.—is expected to be completed at by year-end 2011.
Speaking with the tire trade press following the ceremony, Emkes said he had been thinking about retirement since last year but didn't want to leave the company during the economic downturn. He also noted that the announcement last week may have seemed sudden, but the typical procedure in Japan is to announce personnel changes together with financial results, which are forthcoming in the next few weeks.
In his retirement, Emkes and his wife Conchi plan to spend three to four months of the year at a family apartment in Spain and the rest of the time in Nashville. He will serve on the board of directors for Greif Inc., a packaging company in Delaware, Ohio.
Emkes said emotions of gratitude have welled up inside him for all his colleagues who have supported him throughout his 33-plus years at Bridgestone Americas. He said he would like to be remembered for bringing “open, honest communication” to the company and for fostering a corporate culture of character values and integrity.
On April 1, 2004, Emkes replaced John Lampe, who retired as president, chairman and CEO of Bridgestone Americas after leading the company's recovery from the massive Firestone ATX/Wilderness AT light truck tire recall in 2000 and 2001 that principally involved Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer sport-utility vehicles.