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Titan could shutter Freeport plant, says Taylor

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Starting next week, Titan International Inc. will begin a series of "rolling shutdowns" at its Freeport, Ill., plant that could lead to the factory's eventual phase-out, Titan Chairman and CEO Morry Taylor told earlier today.

Titan's current labor contract at Freeport allows for a two-weeks-off, six-weeks-on production cycle, according to Taylor, who added that Titan intends to continue the shutdown cycle until the pact expires in November 2010.

He revealed that Titan "has probably put $15 million to $20 million in Freeport," mainly new equipment purchases, since buying the factory from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in 2006. If Freeport closes, those machines would be moved to Titan's plants in Bryan, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa.

Freeport could end up as a mixing plant, according to Taylor. (Mixing equipment, he noted, is cost prohibitive to transfer.)

Titan recently laid off 83 workers in Freeport, which can produce 10,000 tires per day at full capacity, according to Modern Tire Dealer research. By contrast, Titan's Des Moines plant has a capacity of 8,000 units per day, while Bryan can produce around 300 units per day.

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