When global tire makers determine where to locate new tire factories, many factors come into play, including such variables as proximity to a port and trucking distance to customers.
But officials at many tire companies say the No. 1 factor is the available work force and training capabilities. And that is one of the reasons that in recent years, those new facilities are going to states in the Southeast U.S.
While some states focus on giving grants and tax incentives, others target training and recruitment services. South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee are four states leading the charge in innovative work force development programs, and tire manufacturers definitely have taken notice.
ReadySC, a division of the SC Technical College System, has trained more than 289,000 individuals since its start in 1961.
"From the beginning, it's had the same mission, and that's really to assist companies that are either moving to South Carolina or expanding to recruit and train their production work force," said Susan Pretulak, ReadySC vice president of economic development.
ReadySC focuses on entry recruiting and training, and works in tandem with its sister organization, Apprenticeship Carolina, which brings companies' work forces to the next level. Together, these programs allow South Carolina to take companies from "0 to 100 percent productivity, whether that takes one year to 100 years," added Kelly Steinhilper, vice president of communications for ReadySC.
Over the past few years, three major tire manufacturers—Michelin North America Inc., Continental Tire the Americas and Bridgestone Americas Inc.—have built plants in South Carolina.
"Our work with them officially begins the minute that they announce that they will be locating to South Carolina," Pretulak said.
Working with companies through a "Three D" process walks the firms through discovery, design and delivery. The discovery sessions take ReadySC representatives all over the world so they can truly understand a partner company's business practices. They discuss hiring timelines, job needs and entry level training requirements.
ReadySC determines what training materials are already available, what materials need translated into English, subject matter experts and more.
"We want to really understand the culture of their company as well. We work with many large, high-profile companies and their corporate cultures are very important to them," Pretulak said.
"We want to make sure that's woven into their advertising, their interviewing process and into all the training that they do both pre-hire and post-hire."
Projects are not cookie-cutter programs, but customized with the knowledge, skills and abilities of a partner company's production work force.