Friday, October 7, 2011

Tire Cluster

ON October 6, the Governor and Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt announced that Continental Tire will build a $500 million tire plant in Sumter that will eventually employ 1700 people. Continental's North American headquarters is in Fort Mill, SC.

Last month, Bridgestone Corporation announced a $1.2 billion tire plant in Aiken that will employ 850 people. This will be the largest initial investment ever in South Carolina.

Michelin Tire is SC's largest private employer, with their North American headquarters in Greenville and seven plants in Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson and Lexington Counties that employ 7,711 people. They also have a research center in Greenville and a test track in Laurens County. Michelin announced a $200 million expansion of their Lexington plant in May.

Michelin is headquartered in France, Continental in Germany and Bridgestone/Firestone in Japan. Combined these companies will make South Carolina the largest producer of tires in the United States.

In addition, TBC Corporation (Tire Kingdom and other brands) has a one million square foot tire distribution facility in Charleston. In June, Tire International announced a $25 million tire and rubber recycling facility in Charleston.

Dr. Porter says that companies co-locate in clusters. There may be many reasons: business environment, right to work laws, incentives, the presence of a trained workforce, the ports of Savannah and Charleston, etc. The tire industry is clearly emerging as one of South Carolina's major clusters.