Bridgestone Breaks Ground on Plant Expansion in N.C.

March 9, 2016

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations broke ground March 9, 2016, on the expansion of its passenger tire manufacturing plant in Wilson, N.C.

The tire maker is investing $164 million to expand the 42-year-old facility over the next five years. Bridgestone already hails the Wilson plant as one of its most environmentally sustainable, and says the expansion will improve the plant's global competitive position by installing leading edge technology, expanding production capacity and lowering costs.

"Today is a momentous day for all of us at the Wilson plant and across Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, as we break ground on this important expansion that will allow us to grow our production and manufacturing capabilities to meet the changing needs of our customers," said Michael Darr, the plant's manager. 

Phases one and two of the investment, which will total nearly $100 million, will focus on the addition of 167,000 square feet of manufacturing space to accommodate new tire assembly machines, materials handling systems, curing presses, and associated equipment to increase plant capacity by 3,000 tires per day, bringing daily production to 35,000 by 2018.

The new equipment also will allow the plant to respond to the increase in global demand for higher rim size tires, as well as improve quality and productivity while reducing costs.

The Wilson plant was the first Bridgestone tire manufacturing facility to produce run-flat tires, and this year will begin producing the company's DriveGuard tires, the line of all-season replacement run-flat tires.

Darr was joined at the event by several Bridgestone leaders, including Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer, chief risk officer and executive vice president for Bridgestone Americas Inc.; Barry Owens, vice president of manufacturing; TJ Higgins, president of the integrated consumer tire division in the U.S. and Canada; and Mike Martini, president of original equipment for the U.S. and Canada consumer tire sales division.

Also in attendance at the event were North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and City of Wilson Mayor C. Bruce Rose.

The county's single largest industrial employer, the Bridgestone plant last underwent an expansion in 1999, when it added 85,000 square feet to the facility.

The plant team has achieved numerous safety awards, including marking the safest year in its 42 years of operations in 2012 – a record it broke in 2013 – and certification earlier this year as a Rising Star facility from the North Carolina Department of Labor. The plant also has received recognition for its environmental efforts, including three Green Factory Environmental Achievement Recognitions at Honda's 22nd annual Environmental, Safety and Ergonomics Symposium in 2014. In addition, it was the first tire plant to earn ISO 50001 certification, reach Superior Energy Performance (SEP) Mature Pathway certification and the first plant in the world to achieve Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) landfill waste diversion claim validation for Zero Waste to Landfill.

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