By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
Continental Tire of the Americas announced another major expansion project late last week.
Company officials announced Friday that it plans to invest $129 million at its Mt. Vernon tire facility and create more than 100 new full-time jobs over the next three years.
The driving forces behind this investment are an increased demand for Continental and General brand tire, the need for better complexity management in the plant and emerging technologies in tire production, a news release stated.
The investment is defined in three segments and supports Continental’s comprehensive growth strategy for its tire operations worldwide.
“One phase is our $95 million expansion to our CTA [commercial vehicle tire] production area,” explained Benny Harmse, vice president of manufacturing. “We have a $25 million expansion to our mixing facility, and we’re also expanding our warehouse.”
The investment in the Mt. Vernon facility totals more than $615 million since 2006.
"The reasons we continue to invest in Mt. Vernon is that we have such a business-friendly community here, and we have a great, dedicated workforce. Our workforce has proven themselves over and over. They are world-class in all aspects. And I think the other aspect is the success of our existing expansion,” Harmse said.
Employment at the plant has grown as a result of the most recent passenger and light truck tire expansion, announced in May 2011. That expansion promised nearly 450 new full-time positions to the Mt. Vernon area — although not all of those jobs have been filed to date.
"We've continued to expand since 2009 and are continuing to hire employees all the time. When we announced our previous expansion, we promised 444 new employees. We now have 350 on board so we still have a few to go. When we hire the additional 90 people it will take it to its final volume,” Harmse said during a news conference. “And with today’s announcement, we’ll have an additional 100 jobs that we will create over the next two years or so.”
At a time when larger companies are downsizing or holding off on expansion projects until the economy improves, Harmse says Continental Tire of the Americas is forging on with expansion plans as a result of several factors.
"I think there are two facets to it. In our markets, we have a large demand for our product. With a strong demand from our customers, we need to provide more product and keep expanding. Secondly, we have been successful with a great workforce. That helps us as we deliver our commitments. Therefore, our stakeholders keep investing in us,” he said.
Harmse said the expansion project is awaiting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. Once that has been received, groundbreaking plans will be announced. He anticipates the expansion will take about two years to complete with a 2015 occupancy date anticipated.
The Mt. Vernon facility currently has 3,200 employees that produce over 14.3 million tires annually. The plant now encompasses over 3.4 million square feet.