GREENVILLE, S.C.—Michelin North America Inc. plans to invest $750 million to once again significantly expand its manufacturing base in South Carolina.
The major investment will cover construction of a new earthmover tire manufacturing plant in Starr, S.C., and a second expansion at the company's existing facility in Lexington, S.C.
Michelin's new factory will be located adjacent to the firm's rubber processing plant in Starr, in Anderson County, where the tire maker also has a 2.5 million-sq.-ft. tire facility—the largest in the world—in Sandy Springs.
Up to 500 manufacturing jobs will be created at the two sites, Chairman and President Pete Selleck said at a news conference held April 10 at Michelin's headquarters in Greenville. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, along with Anderson and Lexington county officials, joined him at the conference.
“There is unprecedented demand for Michelin earthmover tires throughout the world,” Selleck said. “It's a tribute to the productivity of our employees and the pro-business environment in South Carolina” that the company is expanding in the state where it first began manufacturing tires in the U.S.
During a teleconference with media members held shortly after the press conference, three company officials—Rich Komacki, executive vice president of specialty tires, Michelin North America; Roger Lucas, vice president of marketing and sales, Earthmover North America; and Bruce Besancon, director of marketing, Earthmover Tires North America—touted the expansion moves, the growth of the firm's earthmover tire segment and the role South Carolina officials played in keeping Michelin's latest additions in state.
They did not provide investment figures for the individual expansion projects, expected annual production figures, the size of the additions or anticipated export figures.
The expansion at the Lexington facility, which has been producing tires since 1997, is in addition to Michelin's investment of $200 million in 2011 to expand passenger and light truck tire manufacturing at the site and create about 270 jobs, they said.
The initial expansion should be finished in the fall and producing tires in October.
The company then will move on with the second addition, this one to handle earthmover tires used in the mining and construction industries.
Lucas said the company will break ground on the new factory in Starr within the next two weeks and completion of the facility is expected by the end of 2013.
He said the state of South Carolina is providing $9.1 million and the counties of Anderson and Lexington also are contributing incentive packages to the two projects.
Several states and countries made serious attempts to land the new plant, Komacki said, but in the end the Palmetto State won out partially because of the incentives the firm received.
“Other companies are discovering what Michelin has known for almost 40 years—South Carolina is a great place to do business,” Besancon said. “Historically, the state has been very pro-business, has a natural port in Charleston, good rail and highway systems, and an educated labor force. South Carolina has been good for Michelin, and we'd like to think that the reverse is also true.”
A key reason Michelin decided to expand again is that it's looking to strengthen its position in the specialty tire market, especially production of earthmover radial tires, according to Jean-Dominique Senard, managing general partner of Michelin.
“The market for earthmover tires grew by more than 20 percent between 2009 and 2011,” he said. “This new facility will help us meet sustained demand while also attaining our growth objectives for 2015.”
The new plant will be Michelin's 19th manufacturing facility in North America and ninth in South Carolina. More than 8,000 of Michelin North America's 22,300 employees are based in the state. The firm is the largest manufacturing employer in South Carolina.