by Michael Clinebell, Fayetteville Journal
Fayetteville, N.C. — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. will invest more than $17.7 million in its Kelly-Springfield plant to build bigger tires, the company and local officials announced.
The investment will not add jobs, increase the size of the plant or boost the number of tires made there each day, plant manager Jim Konneker said in a statement.
“These improvements allow the plant to adapt its operations to meet market demands for premium products such as 20-inch tires and high-performance tires,” Konneker said.
The modernization project is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Cumberland County Manager James Martin said the investment shows the company has confidence in Fayetteville.
“It has been something that we have been working with them on for almost two years,” Martin said.
Konneker said in February 2003 that modernizing at Kelly would help sustain the Fayetteville plant in part by making workers more efficient.
Konneker was not available for comment Monday night.
Tony Chavonne, chairman of the economic development corporation, said the company’s investment will make the plant more competitive.
“The retention of existing jobs has been one of the highest priorities of our organization this year,” Chavonne said.
Goodyear has been cutting costs and closing plants.
The company has lost more than $1 billion, cut 20,000 jobs and closed eight plants worldwide in recent years. Its turnaround plan includes reducing costs by $1 billion to $1.5 billion by the end of 2005 and possibly selling some of its nontire businesses.
The Fayetteville plant is among Goodyear’s largest – one of three with more than 2,000 hourly employees out of 13 union plants.
Goodyear’s board of directors approved the capital investment for the plant in the first quarter of 2004, according to a news release from Goodyear.
The board met in Pinehurst and Fayetteville on June 6 and 7, according to sources.
Goodyear officials said the company does not discuss the time or place of its board meetings.
Martin said Goodyear could receive financial incentives from the county for the investment. If the investment increases the taxable value of the plant, the county could return a percentage of that increase to the company.
Chavonne said he has heard Goodyear management repeatedly compliment Kelly-Springfield workers and management.
Chavonne complimented Konneker, whom he said was instrumental in making the investment happen.
The economic corporation gave Konneker an award May 21 for his work in economic development.
Konneker took local and state officials to Goodyear headquarters in Akron, Ohio, in May to talk about incentives and investing in the Fayetteville plant.
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