CLINTON, Miss.—One new tire business in Mississippi paid homage to another nearby tire business, not only to celebrate their partnership, but also showcase each company's commitment to the Magnolia State.
Continental A.G.'s truck tire plant in Clinton shipped its first tractor-trailer load of tires produced at the plant to Southern Tire Mart, the independent tire dealer that employs more than 1,000 in the state.
The companies said the gesture honored their business relationship while cementing their vow to provide good jobs to Mississippians and stimulate economic development in the region.
Brothers Jim and Thomas Duff founded Columbia, Miss.-based Southern Tire Mart in 2003 by repurchasing from Bandag Inc a handful of commercial tire outlets and retread shops they had sold the retread systems supplier six year earlier.
Today, Southern Tire Mart is the largest independent tire dealership in the U.S. and largest Bandag retreader with revenues of $1.7 billion and more than 140 commercial and retail service locations in 15 states.
Continental staged a ceremonial grand opening last Oct. 16 for its $1.4 billion truck plant in Clinton.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Christian Koetz, head of Continental's Tire Division, were on hand at the ceremony, along with 300 guests, including state and local officials, community members, customers and suppliers, and 250 Continental employees.
Jim Duff said "the relationship we enjoy with Continental is something we are so proud of, and we are excited to be a part of this new venture that has created and will continue to create jobs for Mississippians for years to come."
Tom Fanning, Continental's vice president of sales and marketing for commercial truck tires in North America, called Southern Tire Mart "a great Mississippi company and long-standing partner.
"Together, we are delivering much more than tires," Fanning said. "We are delivering jobs and investment to support Clinton and Hinds County, benefiting the entire state of Mississippi along with local businesses like Southern Tire Mart."
According to the dealership, Southern Tire Mart services more commercial fleets than any other tire dealer in North America and will serve more fleets because of the accessibility to Continental's inventory and distribution.
Michael Egner, Clinton plant manager, called this "another great milestone for the Continental plant in Mississippi."
He said that the plant's goal "is to be a reliable partner and supplier. By living our core values 'passion to win' and 'for one another,' we can achieve both."
Continental broke ground in November 2016 on the 840,000-sq.-ft. plant, which is projected to produce 750,000 truck and bus tires annually in the first phase.
The full projected employment of 2,500 won't be reached until 2028.
The new plant—the first factory Conti has built that's dedicated to truck tires—is located on a 1,000-acre greenfield site in Hinds County, approximately 2 miles west of Clinton and 20 miles northwest of Jackson.
The factory is Conti's third tire plant in the U.S. and second with truck tire capacity. Its others are in Mount Vernon, Ill., and Sumter, S.C.
Both companies remain optimistic about the Mississippi economy as recovery concerns intensify in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Americans and Mississippians, in particular, are resilient and hard-working and that's why we continue to invest in the people of this state," Thomas Duff said. "This new partnership with Continental ensures that the success and prosperity of what we are doing will enhance the lives of everyone involved in producing, transporting, selling and buying tires."
Despite being one of the largest tire and automotive suppliers in the world, Fanning said Conti takes "an 'in-the-market, for-the-market' approach to sales and manufacturing. We are excited to continue moving forward, creating 500 jobs by the end of this year.
"We rely on our partners like Southern Tire Mart to deliver the Continental promise to fleet customers, helping them achieve their lowest overall driving cost in Mississippi and across the nation."