"This is one of the single largest investments we have made in our North American truck and bus tire production operations within the past decade," Riccardo Cichi, Bridgestone Americas president and chief sales officer for North America, told Rubber News. "It underscores both our confidence in the market and in our Warren teammates for their capacity to support the business in terms of growth, quality, efficiency and new technology."
Bridgestone to invest $550 million in Tenn. plant
The Warren County location produces premium Bridgestone and Firestone TBR tires for both on- and off-highway use in steer, drive and wide-base applications.
The major expansion for the Nashville-based tire maker will add 850,000 square feet to the 1.97 million-sq.-ft. facility, bringing the total square footage to about 2.83 million square feet.
Set to begin this fall and be complete by May 2024, the expansion also will add about 300 new jobs for the local Tennessee economy, Cichi said. Total employment at the plant will increase from roughly 1,100 to 1,400, he said.
"These additional positions will push our nationwide network of manufacturing professionals to nearly 10,000," Cichi said. "We are confident that we can attract new talent because these are quality, good-paying jobs.
"Not to mention, new hires will be joining a team with a great and well-established culture."
Those interested in applying for the new jobs can do so at BeBridgestone.com.
The extra space will increase the plant's daily turnout capacity by 32 percent, Bridgestone said. The 32-year-old plant's capacity now is rated at 9,400 units per day, according to Cichi.
The investment builds upon the state's status as the "new home for automotive innovation and underscores how bullish Bridgestone is about our current economy," a company spokesperson told Rubber News.
"The Warren County tire plant is one of Bridgestone's most productive operations globally," Cichi said. "The plant has a long history of outstanding performance and best practices in manufacturing.
"This expansion will not only allow us to increase our capacity but also expand upon our capabilities as a company and build more digital-ready products."
The Warren County site was built in 1989, and its first tire shipped in 1990.
"The economy rolls on tires, and we have more than 30,000 teammates making, selling and servicing tires in America—everything from cars and SUV tires to trucks and buses, construction, mining and agricultural equipment," Cichi said. "It runs the gamut, and it gives us some pretty unique insights into the state of our economy."
Cichi said the Tennessee expansion plays into Bridgestone's digital-first philosophy as a "sustainable solutions company."
"We're transforming Bridgestone into a sustainable solutions company," he said. "Our future isn't just tires, it's also data that supports fleets with insights on the health of their tires to drive productivity and sustainability.
"We see this as an opportunity, and we're making critical investments to build the foundations of our solutions business."
Cichi said Bridgestone has received "tremendous support" from the state of Tennessee, a driving factor in the plant's initial build and now its expansion.
Bridgestone typically does not comment on economic development incentives, but Cichi did say that the long-term success of the plant "can be attributed in part to the strong partnership between Bridgestone, the state of Tennessee and Warren County government officials and the community."
"We have a truly incredible group of Bridgestone teammates here in Warren," he said. "These men and women and their commitment to quality and innovation for our customers is what drives us forward and has turned this facility into one of our company's most productive plants globally."
Bridgestone said it "carefully and thoroughly" evaluated the location and studied "at length" the $550 million investment before pulling the trigger.
"A myriad of factors is considered when undertaking this important and complex process in a competitive global market," Cichi said. "We believe that after comprehensive evaluation, our decision to expand our Warren County plant makes strong business sense, and we're proud to make this announcement."
"I am convinced that a simple profit-seeking business will never thrive, but a business that contributes to its society and country will be forever profitable."
The business philosophy of Bridgestone Group founder Shojiro Ishibashi rings as true today as it did in 1931 when the company was founded.
Earlier this year, the Bridgestone Group launched its "Bridgestone E8 Commitment" to realize its vision: "Toward 2050, Bridgestone continues to provide social and customer value as a sustainable solutions company."
The commitment includes eight values starting with the letter "e" (energy, ecology, efficiency, extension, economy, emotion, ease and empowerment) that the company will commit to creating together with employees, society, partners and customers "to support realization of a sustainable society."
"The Bridgestone E8 commitment and its eight values serve as a guide for our company, helping us along our journey to the realization of a sustainable society," Cichi said. "With those values in mind, expansions like these will allow our company to invest in new technology to produce more digitally ready and sustainable products, which will shape the mobility space for years to come."
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Couple that with recent significant investments by some of Bridgestone Americas' OE partners in Tennessee, and the impact the state has made on the automotive industry—and the state's proclivity toward digital-first technology—is evident.
Bridgestone will look to gain market share in both truck and bus tire markets in North America with the expansion, Cichi said, as "demand for our products remains strong."
"Of course, meeting the growing demand for our tires was a driving force behind this expansion," he said.
Another key driver of the Warren County expansion was increasing capabilities in the company's core business of tire manufacturing—with an EV component to the decision to expand, as well.
"With this expansion, we look to make more digitally ready products, which are critical for the EV market that is rapidly growing," Cichi said. "Mobility is becoming more connected, and our Warren teammates will play a key role in how new technologies are developed and implemented."
Bridgestone said it will invest in smart technologies, like digital manufacturing, including artificial intelligence control technology, to increase productivity.
And the bottom line for the Bridgestone Americas segment should benefit.
"With our increased ability to deliver products, we do anticipate an uptick in sales," Cichi said.
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