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Mississippi Tire Plant Drives Economy Forward

The $300 million project kicked off in September of last year.

Tue February 18, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

In West Point, Miss., crews are making significant progress as work continues on a 920,000 sq. ft. (85,470.8 sq m) truck and bus tire manufacturing plant.

Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $300 million project in September, an event attended by President and Representative Director of Yokohama Rubber, Hikomitsu Noji, Yokohama executives, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, state officials and more than 300 guests.

Alan Easome, senior director of new plant development of Yokohama Tire Corp. said Yokohama chose Mississippi after an extensive comparative analysis and the consideration of several factors.

“For one, it provided the overall lowest cost for operations, said Easome. “And two, people with whom we worked in the community gave Yokohama a sense that we will have a strong ongoing relationship at the state and local level that will mutually benefit the company and community as Yokohama grows.

“Phase I is already underway. We hosted two employment information sessions in December that drew nearly 1,000 interested applicants. Training and testing sessions have begun and we plan to begin taking applications in early February.”

“Most of the plant is a single-story building, except for the mixing tower, said Yoshi Sato, project executive of Kajima Building & Design Group Inc. “The tower is a structural steel building, and the balance is going to be a pre-engineered metal building. The curing area has a concrete pit. The north side of the plant is where the materials go in. After the manufacturing process, all the tires come out from the south.”

Production is expected to start in October 2015. Construction began at the end of September 2013, with initial work including cutting and removal of the existing vegetation, and performing cut and fill dirt tasks. Clay with high plasticity was discovered at the site. The plant is located at the south half of an oversized lot.

“We have about 250 to 750 trucks bringing in dirt, since the surface soil of 4.5 feet needs to be replaced with material that doesn’t expand,” Soto said. “There were no existing structures that needed to be demolished. There are no existing utilities on site, so each company will bring their own utilities to the plant for Yokohama. Yokohama will also get an access road from Highway 45.”

Soto said the main challenges on the project so far involve safety and the overall time frame.

“The owner has a very aggressive schedule. Coordination of the trades is a big ’must’, to avoid safety issues, such as one crew of workers stacked against another. Also, the site is huge. We will have to have our eyes always open for potential safety hazards and prevent them.”

Equipment used to construct the new plant includes back hoes for earthwork; concrete pumps, cranes and forklifts for structural steel; and manlifts for almost every trade.

Approximately 4,700 tons (4,263 t) of structural steel and pre-engineered metal building will be used during construction. In addition, 3D modeling is being used. One of the most time-consuming tasks on this project has been coordinating the civil, architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical design and engineering, so that crews can avoid re-work in the field.

Potential plant expansions could reach up to four times the original employment and investment level, totaling $1.2 billion and possibly 2,000 additional workers.

“Our people are our most important asset, and this venture will be no exception,” said Easome. “It was crucial to invest in a long-term relationship within the community. In addition, a project of this magnitude typically requires upgrades to public and private services that will be enjoyed not only by the company, but the community as a whole. The facility will also likely generate increased traffic and demand for businesses and services throughout the Golden Triangle area in Mississippi.”

Local government will reportedly offer $340 million in aid and tax breaks; however, the ultimate value of the tax incentives is dependent upon the level of job creation and capital investment that Yokohama achieves in Mississippi. It is expected to be determined in later phases.

“We need the capacity to grow and we want to have production in the market where tires are sold,” Easome said. “This factory supports our strategy for competitive growth in North America. In addition to the 500 direct jobs the initial investment will create, it is our experience that local businesses will likely see a long term upturn in trade stimulated by employee salaries being spent in the community. In the short to medium term, the sizable building and machinery installation effort will bring in an immediate impact as construction contractors and design teams work in the community.”

“This is a great day for Yokohama, Mississippi and the community of West Point,” Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi President, Tadaharu Yamamoto told reporters. “As we move forward with construction of our new tire-making facility, I’d like to personally thank Governor Bryant, his staff and all the people in Mississippi for their support on this incredible endeavor. There’s no question we made the right choice coming to Mississippi with this project.”

Yokohama plans to employ approximately 500 people for the initial phase. The company also plans to construct a plant equipped with production, warehousing and operations facilities on more than 500 acres of land and will produce up to one million tires annually.

“Today is a very exciting day as Yokohama prepares to begin construction of its very first U.S. manufacturing facility to be built from the ground up,” said Bryant. “I am grateful to the Yokohama team and those at the state and local levels for working so quickly to get this project underway. I look forward to visiting again in the near future as we celebrate the grand opening of Yokohama’s tire manufacturing plant and once again prove to the world that Mississippi is a great place for business.”

Yokohama Tire Corporation is the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Tokyo-based The Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd., a global manufacturing and sales company of tires since 1917. The company’s product line includes tires for high-performance, light truck, passenger car, commercial truck and bus, off-road mining and construction applications.

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