Sumitomo Rubber USA LLC is shutting down its tire plant in Tonawanda, N.Y., beginning April 20 due to the COVID-19 crisis. In a message to employees of the plant, the company says it will close the plant for two weeks with an anticipated re-opening date of May 4.
"While we take our designation as an essential business seriously, we strongly believe that this temporary closure is both the responsible course of action and the right thing to do. This decision supports the safety of our people and the community as we try to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"We will evaluate if a third week of closure will be necessary (reopening May 11, 2020,) as determined by where we are as a community, coupled with our requirements as an essential business within the transportation infrastructure."
Sumitomo says it will communicate with its employees if the third week of shut down is necessary by May 1.
In a Q&A shared with employees, the company said it was not shutting down because an employee had tested positive for COVID-19. "To date, there has been no positive result for COVID-19 within Sumitomo." The company also says its medical department has actually seen a decrease in the number of medical visits.
Sumitomo says it is "preparing long term for this virus" and that it is looking into long-term deep cleaning, a regular order and stock of safety supplies, supporting its community and "taking care of the Sumitomo family."
As part of the Q&A, the question was posed “Why did we wait so long? Or, why not wait a little longer?”
“There is no perfect answer here. Many team members have provided differing opinions. Our goal is to maintain a strong business that supports our 1,300 families, the community, and the nation as a USA-based manufacturer.
“We take none of these lightly. We feel that as we get close to the peak of the virus, it was important for us to support the community to flatten the curve as well as avoid the peak time for our team members.”
The plant, located near Buffalo, N.Y., produces a mix of Falken-branded tires: 7,300 passenger tires a day, 2,700 light truck tires a day and 2,300 medium truck tires daily – plus motorcycle tires under the Dunlop brand.