FINDLAY, Ohio—Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is evaluating an investment of perhaps as much as $140 million to modernize its Tupelo, Miss., car and light truck tire plant, aided by up to $39 million in state and local funding.
The project to make the plant more competitive came to light recently when Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bond issue bill that would authorize the state to borrow $230 million for a variety of industrial projects, including $20 million over three years to support Cooper's plans to modernize the 30-year-old Tupelo plant.
In addition, Lee County's board of supervisors has approved a plan to give Cooper $18.8 million in property tax breaks over 10 years, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
Cooper acknowledged it is making an investment to modernize equipment in Tupelo, but declined to discuss specifics or comment on details that have been published widely in Mississippi.
The company did say: “We are grateful to have the support of the government there as we work to make our plants even more competitive. We do not provide specifics on the equipment modernization as it represents proprietary information.”
In addition, Cooper Chairman, CEO and President Roy Armes brought the investment matter to the attention of financial analysts participating in the firm's recent first quarter earnings conference call, saying: “Our goal with such efforts and others is to make all of our plants more competitive in the marketplace.”
The state's promise to lend aid to Cooper comes a year after the Mississippi Legislature and Gov. Bryant granted $130 million in incentives for Yokohama Tire Corp., which is building a truck tire plant in West Point, Miss.
Cooper employs 1,400 at the non-unionized plant in northeast Mississippi, which is rated at 42,000 car and light truck tires a day.
The company last disclosed an investment in the Tupelo plant in 2011, when it said it was investing $9 million to enhance flexibility. Before that it spent $7 million in 2009-10 to fund a 32,000-sq.-ft. expansion.
Last year the United Steelworkers held meetings with employees at Tupelo in an attempt to unionize them.