STOW, Ohio—It doesn't seem that long ago that the outlook for tire manufacturing in the U.S. and North America was not bright.
There had been no tire factories to speak of constructed in the U.S. for more than 15 years, and closings and consolidation had become the norm. Imports were taking up an ever growing share of the U.S. tire market.
But Arie Kroeze, president of VMI Americas Inc., forecast back in 2007 that things were about to change.
Mike Slone, area sales manager of tire and rubber machinery for the U.S. subsidiary of Holland's VMI Group, recalls Kroeze during a company planning session saying that Asian tire companies would begin building plants in the U.S. Slone said the room erupted in laughter.
But in the ensuing years that is just what has been occurring. Kroeze has been with VMI for more than 30 years and working in the U.S. since 1995.
"Since I've been here all I had seen were plant closures," he said in a recent interview. "All the people who were over here closed plants and opened up overseas. And all of the sudden what we see is modernization of plants going on, but there also have been new plants coming in."
That obviously has shifted somewhat with the tariffs scare in Asia, mainly for China. "All of the sudden you see a shift of our business significantly from Asia to North America. And there's also European companies coming here or expanding," he said.