"This is really a historical moment for Nokian Tyres," Korhonen said as earthmovers growled in the distance. "I'm so proud of the company. We are so excited to get things moving. Through this almost $400 million U.S. investment, we are showing our commitment long term to serve our customers and to become members of this society."
After two years of discussion focused on building a plant in North America, the Nokian board of directors greenlighted the $360 million facility in May. It will produce passenger, SUV and light truck tires specifically for North American consumers, and is scheduled to go on-stream in 2020. Officials say it will have 400 employees and an eventual capacity of 4 million tires per year.
The facility is expected to span 830,000 square feet and will include a warehouse that is expected to store 600,000 tires.
The Tennessee State Building Board Commission recently approved a $28.4 million grant that will finance infrastructure, site development, equipment, construction and related work, according to terms of the grant.
"We have been looking forward to today for a long time. This not only is a really big deal in Rhea County (Dayton is the county seat of Rhea County), but it's also a big deal for the state of Tennessee," Haslam said. "Nokian is a world-class company, committed to producing a great product in a sustainable way."
The location will have highway and rail transportation available nearby. The plot of land is large enough to accommodate three times the planned facility's size.
"We are not only investing in the factory, we are also investing in people," Korhonen said as many onlookers waved Nokian-branded hand fans to stifle the heat. "We will be investing more into products, product development, marketing, and also making us part of this society."
Antti Vanska, Finland's deputy chief of mission and the second highest ranking official at the Finnish Embassy, said the factory only solidifies the strong relationship between the countries. He said the U.S. is Finland's third biggest country for exports.