RICHFIELD, Ohio—Nexen Tire Corp.'s technical presence in the U.S. is about to get significantly bigger.
The firm broke ground on its 34,000-sq.-ft. technical center in Richfield on Oct. 17, which represents about a $5 million investment, not including additional equipment. The project is set to become operational by the end of 2018.
Nexen Project Engineer Gary Zolton said employment is projected to reach 40 people, up from 17, within five years after the new center is operational.
"Nexen is very committed to the North American market, and this center we're building is a testament to that," Nexen Project Manager Aaron Neumann said.
The firm currently operates out of two buildings in Richfield—a 8,000-sq.-ft. office and a 5,000-sq.-ft. development space. The new site will bring all of Nexen's operations under one roof with a warehouse capable of housing up to 3,000 tires.
Half of the new technical center will consist of office space. The other half, in addition to the warehouse, will house labs for compound development, tire forensics and noise, vibration and harshness evaluation. It also will house test machines for rolling resistance and high-speed uniformity.
The center currently develops tires for the original equipment and consumer markets, conducts compound and material research, evaluations for performance and NVH, mold design, tire styling, and finite element analysis.
Fiat-Chrysler is one of the firm's major OE customers. Neumann said the firm has major fitments on almost all of FCA's Dodge Ram vehicles with another one to be introduced in 2018.
The company does not have manufacturing in North America, but operates three plants globally—two in South Korea and another in China. A fourth plant in the Czech Republic is set to come online in 2018. The 7 million-sq.-ft. plant is projected to eventually produce more than 12 million units annually and create more than 1,000 jobs.
Nexen has increased its tire capacity from 39 million in 2015 to a projected 44 million by 2018 and is aiming to hit 52 million by 2021 as its Czech operation scales up.