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Bridgestone breaks ground on N.C. plant expansion

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WILSON, N.C.—Company and political dignitaries were on hand as Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations officially broke ground on its five-year, $164 million expansion of its tire plant in Wilson.

“Today is a momentous day for all of us at the Wilson plant and across Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, as we break ground on this important expansion that will allow us to grow our production and manufacturing capabilities to meet the changing needs of our customers,” Plant Manager Michael Darr said at the March 9 groundbreaking.

“We'd like to thank the Wilson community for its support over the last 42 years, and we're excited to begin this next chapter in our plant's history,” he said.

Other Bridgestone executives who joined Darr at the event included Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer, chief risk officer and executive vice president, Bridgestone Americas Inc.; Barry Owens, vice president, manufacturing; T.J. Higgins, president, Integrated Consumer Tire Division, U.S.  and Canada; and Mike Martini, president, original equipment, U.S. and Canada Consumer Tire Sales Division. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Wilson Mayor C. Bruce Rose also attended.

Bridgestone said the expansion at the 42-year-old factory, which it claimed is one of the company's most environmentally sustainable operations, will improve the plant's global competitive position by installing new technology, expanding production capacity and lowering costs.

Phases I and II of the investment, which the company said will total nearly $100 million, will add 167,000 square feet of manufacturing space to accommodate new tire assembly machines, materials handling systems, curing presses and associated equipment.

The expansion will increase capacity by 3,000 tires per day at the plant, bringing daily production to 35,000 by 2018.

The company said the equipment will allow the facility to respond to more global demand for higher rim size tires, as well as improve quality and productivity while reducing costs.

The Wilson plant currently manufactures 32,000 passenger tires a day. It was the company's first tire manufacturing facility to produce run-flat tires, and this year it will begin to produce Bridgestone's DriveGuard line, a premium, all-season replacement tire engineered to run up to 50 miles after a puncture. The factory last had an expansion in 1999, when it added 85,000 square feet to the facility.