From The Oklahoman Two tire manufacturers’ expansion plans totaling $450 million got a major boost Tuesday from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The court approved a $66.3 million bond issue designed to help the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.’s $250 million plant expansion in Lawton, Okla.
The bond issue also would help in a $200 million expansion at Michelin North American Inc. in Ardmore, Okla.
The ruling involved a 2002 law passed to provide state incentives for expansions that would create more jobs at the tire plants.
Jerry Fent, an Oklahoma City attorney, challenged the bond issue, saying it was unconstitutional. The court disagreed in a 5-3 decision.
Fent challenged the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority’s plan to issue Industrial Development Taxable Revenue Bonds not to exceed $36,720,000 for Goodyear and $29,615,000 for Michelin as an incentive for the two manufacturers’ modernization plans.
Goodyear is in the second phase of its expansion. Michelin’s expansion is on hold, pending outcome of the lawsuit.
The ruling means Oklahoma will remain the No. 1 tire manufacturer in the nation, said state Sen. Sam Helton, D-Lawton, the author of the 2002 law.
Helton told state senators that if the Goodyear plant wasn’t expanded, it might be in trouble in 10 years.
Phil Brown, plant manager for Goodyear, said, “We are certainly pleased that the state is moving forward with this support of our plant’s modernization. Much of our project is now complete and more than 100 jobs have been added to our work force in anticipation of this support.”
Arty Straehla, Goodyear’s director of North American consumer tire manufacturing, said the state’s support “shows that Oklahoma leads the way in helping companies retain and grow good manufacturing jobs.”
Straehla was plant manager in Lawton when the legislation was passed and when the Goodyear plant began its expansion.
Local sales taxes designed to help the plants also are in place.
Michelin officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday.
But Wes Stucky, president of the Ardmore Development Authority, said thanks to the ruling, the Ardmore plant will be “ultra modern and able to compete” with any tire manufacturer.
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