COLCHESTER, Vt.—Nokian Tyres North America plans to move its headquarters in the coming 12 months from Colchester to Nashville, Tenn., about 150 miles west of Dayton, Tenn., where the firm's parent company is building its first U.S. plant.
It is unclear how many of the 65 employees at the Vermont facility will be relocated, eliminated or remain in Colchester, where the company will retain all or or part of the 200,000-sq.-ft. facility as a warehouse and distribution center.
Hans Dyhrman, Nokian's director of marketing, said there are two reasons for the move.
"No. 1 is to be closer to the manufactguring facility," Dyhrman said. "It's a shorter, much shorter, distance drive down to Dayton. Secondly, Tennessee and Nashville is certainly becoming an auto industry hub. In terms of access to employees, there are a lot of opportunities."
Dyhrman said it's too early to determine how many employees will be offered relocation or remain at the Vermont facility.
"We don't have specifics pinned down at this point in time," he said. "That's why we're taking a long transition period. We'll see what employees may or may not be interested in relocating and proceed from that."
He said all employees will remain in Colchester until April 2019, and those retained there beyond that time will peform functions related to warehousing and distribution.
"We will take care of our employees no matter what path they choose to follow," Dyhrman said.
The announcement was made in conjunction with Nokian's naming Mark Earl, president of Hennessy Industries, as its vice president, Americas Business Area. He will responsible for implementing the company's North American business strategy, including doubling sales by 2023, growing its distribution and building and strengthening the firm's North American presence.
Earl will be based at a temporary office in Nashville. Whether that office becomes the permanent North American headquarters or another office is leased, acquired or constructed remains to be seen.
Earl is taking over the regional vice president's duties from Tommi Heinonen, who is transitioning to a new position as head of sales for the Americas. The changes become effective May 1.
Heinonen, currently head of the North American subsidiary, will remain in Colchester for the next year and is expected to return to his native Finland next summer.
North America represents 11 percent of Nokian's global business after growing 15-plus percent last year to $195 million.
Just last month, the company was named one of Vermont's Best Places to Work, according to Vermont Business Magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, as part of a statewide survey managed by the Best Companies Group.
But the company has had its sights set on Tennessee for almost a year. Last May, Nokia, Finland-based Nokian Tyres P.L.C.—No. 18 in Tire Business' 2017 Global Tire Rankings with 2016 sales of $1.7 billion—took one of the first steps in growing its North American business, announcing plans to build a $360 million, 830,000 sq.-ft. plant in Dayton.
The facility will concentrate on producing passenger, SUV and light truck tires specifically for North American consumers. The eventual capacity is expected to be 4 million tires per year, and Nokian earlier said it would employee around 400.
"Things are progressing as planned," Dyhrman said. "We will be fully producing there in 2020."