December 20, 2011
Is Akron still the ‘Rubber Capital of the World’?
Akron, Ohio, is my hometown. My great grandmother came to Akron from Scotland and was a maid for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. founder Franklin Seiberling. I remember all the rubber factories, and the smell of rubber in the air.
Now, only the smokestacks remain, rising into the air from abandoned tire plants.
But, tire companies have not abandoned Akron. It once was called the “Rubber Capitol of the World.” I think it still could be called the Tire Capitol of the World.
One tire company that’s investing in Akron is Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations Inc. According to Gary Garfield, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas, the company has a focus on being innovative. He says the company has made a large financial commitment to R&D.
“The Akron technical center is magnificent,” Garfield explains. “It will be a huge change for us. We expect everyone to be moved in by mid-January. The grand opening will be in April. This is tremendously exciting for us. We want to create an air of innovation.”
Innovation is where the Bridgestone’s Akron technical center comes into play. The building will be home to 900 Bridgestone Americas employees who now work in the aging former Firestone headquarters and factory.
“One of the keys to our success will be unleashing the power of our people. And this will be symbolic of that,” Garfield said.
The unleashing of innovation and people power is also taking place at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In April 2011 the company broke ground for Goodyear's new global headquarters – right here in Akron, Ohio.
"This was truly a remarkable team effort and a good example of the public and private sectors working together for the common good," says Goodyear Chairman, CEO and President Richard Kramer. "Goodyear is proud to be a global company headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Both Goodyear and the city have changed and grown over the years, but our commitment to Akron remains constant. Goodyear will continue to be a vital part of this community's future."
The project was announced several years ago, but was delayed by the credit crisis. It is scheduled to be completed in early 2013. At that time, Goodyear will relocate 2,000 associates into the building, which will serve as headquarters for the company's global operations and North American tire business team.
The new building will connect with Goodyear's Innovation Center and serve as a central campus for the company. The Innovation Center currently has more than 800 associates.
As part of the agreement, Goodyear will lease the office space through 2038 and have potential options through 2093.
While these tire makers are staying in Akron and moving to new locations, others are moving here for the first time.
Chinese tiremaker Triangle recently set up shop in Akron. The Triangle Group, the largest tire manufacturer in China, has a new home here in Akron. Along with new research company A3T LLC, the tiremaker has partnered with The University of Akron (UA) and the University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) on rubber research, technology development and licensing.
Yuhua Ding, chairman of Triangle Group, Weihai, China, signed an agreement with UA President Luis Proenza, to engage in research collaborations with UA and UARF.
Visiting scientists with the Triangle Group and UA College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering faculty members will conduct joint research at the National Polymer Innovation Center and other facilities on the UA campus. These activities will be coordinated through Akron-based A3T.
This is just the tip of the tire iceberg in Akron. It may not smell like rubber here anymore, but you can definitely see the tire industry going strong in the Tire Capital of the World.