New Akron Area Tech Center - Tire Review Magazine

New Akron Area Tech Center

Kenda hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new American Technical Center on Nov. 9 in Green, Ohio.
Ying-Ming Yang, chairman of Kenda Rubber Ind. Co., Ltd.; Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor; and Jimmy Yang, president of Kenda USA at Kenda’s ribbon cutting ceremony for its new American Technical Center on Nov. 9 in Green, Ohio.

Kenda USA is calling Green, Ohio, home for its new Kenda American Technology Center. The tiremaker hosted a ribbon cutting and pre-opening preview with Kenda executives and government officials on Nov. 9 at the new facility, just minutes from Akron and Kenda’s Martin Wheel Co.

“We feel that Akron is a good town of operation and historically Akron has been the center of our tire business and tire industry,” said Ying-Ming Yang, chairman of Kenda Rubber Industry Co.

The Kenda American Technical Center is located in Green, Ohio, and in close proximity to the Akron-Canton Airport and not far from Kenda’s Martin Wheel Co. in Tallmadge.
The Kenda American Technical Center is located in Green, Ohio, and in close proximity to the Akron-Canton Airport and not far from Kenda’s Martin Wheel Co. in Tallmadge.

The new 50,000-square-foot facility was purchased and supported in part with the help of a 10-year grant from Ohio and 7-year income tax incentive from the city of Green. The new facility will be used for research and development efforts such as new products and technology, and will hold engineering offices, said Tom Williams, Kenda USA’s vice president of engineering.

Williams spearheaded the purchase of the building, which is the tiremaker’s first technical center in the U.S. R&D centers are also located in Yuanlin, Taiwan, and Kunshan, China.

“We are working on introducing new technology throughout the facilities both here and Taiwan and China into the development process to speed things up and also (offer) a better quality product for the company,” Williams said. “This is also being put into place to help us become a very competitive OE supplier for the automotive industry in the U.S. Obviously that is a very tough market and it requires good technology to handle it.”

After purchasing the former Morris Office building, Williams said in 19 months the building has been renovated, and 18 people have been hired. Approximately $400,000 has been spent on improvements. Kenda plans to hire a total of 60 to 70 people by the time the facility is done.

To bring more employees to the new location, Kenda will offer engineering co-op partnerships with the University of Akron and Ohio State University, and has already interviewed and sent offers to University of Akron students for June 2016.

Future Expansion

Spring 2016 is the expected completion date of Phase 1 for the technical center’s laboratories, which will include compound analysis, chemical and machinery laboratories and a tire dissection lab, footprint pressure measurement, an environmental chamber for temperature testing, and ride and handling support.

Jimmy Yang, Kenda USA president, plants a tree to celebrate the new tech center. Tom Williams (right), Kenda USA vice president of engineering, and Chairman Ying-Ming Yang also planted a tree.
Jimmy Yang, Kenda USA president, plants a tree to celebrate the new tech center. Tom Williams (right), Kenda USA vice president of engineering, and Chairman Ying-Ming Yang also planted a tree.

Later phases are to be completed in the next three to five years and include a tire analysis lab, flat plank footprint and force and moment testing, air permeation testing, a vibration/modal lab and test tire warehousing.

“We are very successful in the spare tire OE business and we would like to grow that business. The opportunity is right there because we have done such a good job with spare tires and some OEMs had known about Kenda tires and also the quality of Kenda service,” said Jimmy Yang, president of Kenda USA. “With the tech center in Green, it just adds so much more interest for us. We are also expanding our OE presence in Asia – in China, in Taiwan – but eventually we want to approach the OEMs in Europe so the next step is to have a tech center in Europe.”

President Yang anticipates Kenda will outgrow the building in about five years and may need 100 to 200 employees by then. He adds that he would like to keep the center in Green or in an area like nearby Hudson, Ohio.

Chairman Yang notes that of Kenda’s $1.1 billion in sales, 21% is from U.S., making North America a very important market for Kenda and a ideal location to build a technical center.

“We choose America as our first priority because as I mentioned earlier, the U.S. is our No. 2 market – No. 1 is the Chinese market – for Kenda,” Chairman Yang said.

Kenda currently has six tire plants, with three in China, two in Taiwan and one in Vietnam, and is adding a tire plant in Indonesia and a recently announced consumer tire plant in Vietnam.

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