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Bridgestone opens OTR tire plant in S.C.

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Bridgestone Americas Inc.'s first giant radial OTR tire plant is officially up and running. Based in Aiken County, S.C., the 1.5 million-square-foot manufacturing facility produces various off-road radial tire products used to equip heavy haul trucks in mining and aggregates applications.

Kazuhisa Nishigai, COO and board member of Bridgestone Corp., and Gary Garfield, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas, hosted the grand opening ceremony in Akien County. They were joined by South Carolina State Senator Nikki Setzler; South Carolina State Representative Bill Clyburn; South Carolina State Representative Bill Hixon; South Carolina State Representative Bill Taylor; Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young; and Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda Counties Economic Development Partnership CEO and President Will Williams, among others.

The new radial OTR tire plant strengthens Bridgestone’s ability to meet the needs of its global customer base in this key segment, according to the company.

"We remain highly committed to our mining customers around the globe and will continue to make the right investments for this important segment of our business," said Nishigai.

In 2011, Bridgestone announced a planned $970 million investment to build the company's first OTR radial tire plant in the United States, as well as expand production capacity at Bridgestone’s steel cord manufacturing facilities in Clarksville, Tenn., and Saga, Japan. The opening of the Bridgestone Americas Aiken County Off Road Radial Tire Plant completes the largest portion of this planned investment.

The Clarksville and Saga locations are suppliers to the new plant, as steel cord is a key component used to build large and ultra-large OTR radial tires.

"Engineering large and ultra-large mining tires is a highly technical process, and Bridgestone has a long tradition of being a leader in bringing these tires to market," said Garfield. "The opening of a new off-road radial tire plant in South Carolina is a strategic business decision that will give Bridgestone the capacity to build these tires domestically and improve our supply systems globally.

"Long term, the mining segment will grow, and we are now better-positioned to respond more quickly, efficiently and reliably to the needs of our customers."

Approximately 350 people work at the OTR plant; that will increase to 550 when the location reaches full production in the next two to three years. Ron Brooks is the plant manager.

(The new tire manufacturing plant is the second Bridgestone has built in Aiken County. The company has operated a passenger tire facility in Graniteville since 1998. There are approximately 2,000 people working at Bridgestone’s two tire plants in Aiken County.)

"South Carolina and Bridgestone have a long and successful history of working together, and we are excited to celebrate this next chapter in our growing partnership," said Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina. "Bridgestone is a great South Carolina company, employing thousands of our citizens and playing an active and positive role in their local community."

The new Bridegestone Americas Aiken County Off Road Radial Tire Plant was constructed with many sustainable features and materials in alignment with Bridgestone’s global commitment to the environment.

* The plant is built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver construction specifications.

* Sustainable and advanced technologies from Firestone Building Products, a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, were used throughout the facility. The new plant relies on UltraPly TPO roofing, ISO 95+ insulation, UnaFoam Insulated Metal Wall Panels, pavers and geomembrane for retention ponds, and water harvesting areas.

To learn more about Bridgestone’s mining tire products, visit www.BridgestoneMiningSolutions.com.

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