CTNA to invest up to $70 million in Mt. Vernon plant

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Continental Tire North America Inc. says it will invest $60 million to $70 million in its Mt. Vernon, Ill., factory, the largest investment it has ever made in a North American plant.

Upgrades will include the installation of a new tandem mixer, "the only one of its kind in (the United States)," according to CTNA officials.

The mixer is expected to boost productivity by mixing rubber faster and more efficiently.

In related news, CTNA also has announced that it will reduce wages and benefits for Mt. Vernon employees.

Hourly employees' wages will be cut 10%. In addition, hourly workers will be asked to contribute the same amount that salaried employees do for health insurance.

"Salaried employees at the plant have already experienced similar reductions over the last few years."

CTNA maintains that even after wage reductions go into effect, Mt. Vernon workers will remain among the highest-paid manufacturing workers in southern Illinois.

"Mt. Vernon is an important asset to CTNA," says CTNA Chairman and CEO Alan Hippe.

"Some of our decisons are difficult ones, but I am confident that, through this initiative, we will achieve our critical goals of reducing manufacturing costs at the Mt. Vernon facility and securing CTNA's continued presence in southern Illinois and North America for years to come."

Earlier this week, CTNA announced that it will reduce production at its Charlotte, N.C., passenger and light truck tire plant in 2006.

The move will include some 500 lay-offs. The first round of lay-offs will take place next month and a second round will take place in June.

"CTNA's overall objective is to reduce significant financial losses while expanding its market position in the North American marketplace for all tire operations.

"For the last several years, CTNA has been analyzing its North American manufacturing operations and implementing initiatives to reduce costs in all areas of its North American tire business."

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