CLINTON, Miss.—Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has a history in the tire business, but the $1.45 billion commercial tire factory Continental Tire the Americas is building in central Mississippi shows he definitely has moved up the food chain from his early days in the industry.
After presiding over the Nov. 3 groundbreaking ceremonies at the 1,000-acre plot outside Clinton that will house the Conti plant, the 61-year-old, second-term governor recalled how the year he graduated from high school he worked at Big 10 Tire Co. changing tires 51/2 days a week.
“That's what got me in college,” Bryant said. “I know tires. I've changed a bunch of them. It is a good business and a product people always need.”
The Conti truck and bus tire plant will be the third tire complex in Mississippi and the second opened during Bryant's governorship, joining the commercial tire facility Yokohama Tire Corp. opened last year in West Point. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has operated a tire factory in Tupelo since 1984.
While Bryant still gets nostalgic from the smell of new tires in a store or factory, he likes his position now more than during his days at Big 10 Tire. “It takes me back to those days,” he said. “I'm glad I'm not breaking down tires anymore, but I sure am glad I'm opening tire plants.”
The governor called Conti's facility the largest manufacturing investment in Mississippi history, adding that he feels the state-of-the-art plants the tire industry now constructs are a good match for his state's work force. “The middle skills we have here in Mississippi in abundance fit the manufacturing of tires,” he said. “We have advanced technologies that will be here in this plant. People have to understand, this is not just throwing around heavy tires.
“This is going to be automation and robotics. This will be an advanced manufacturing site for us. But we think we're very good at it, and we're looking to maybe have more in the future.”