Not Rocket Science - Tire Review Magazine

Not Rocket Science

The news that Bridgestone/Firestone is keeping its tech center in Akron is certainly good news for the city and the state, both of which could use some good economic vibes, to be sure.

To say Murfreesboro, Tenn. – some 15 miles from BFS headquarters – had no chance to land BFS’ tech center and hundreds of jobs would be a bit of an understatement. It had a snowball’s chance in %$@&.

Getting a brand spanking new building is well deserved for one of Akron’s largest employers. After Goodyear got its headquarters deal done – keeping 3,500 jobs in Akron – it certainly was BFS’ turn.

But a new building to replace the century-old former Firestone world headquarters was a small part of the financial equation. The real dollar value of the deal comes in continuity.

The compounded cost of relocating about 600 jobs from Akron to middle Tennessee would be enormous. Not every employee would take the move, so besides paying to uproot families, BFS would face shelling out millions in finding, relocating and training hundreds of new hires.

Second, the loss of those veteran employees who would not make the move – the institutional knowledge that would be lost – is incalculable. You can’t just replace experienced people and not expect problems. I was there when Bridgestone USA moved from Southern California to Nashville, with only about 20% of the staff making the move. Dozens of new faces struggled in their new jobs, costing the company months in momentum and more.

As Bridgestone Americas Holding chairman and CEO Mark Emkes rightly pointed out yesterday, his company employs more people in Akron than it does at its headquarters in Nashville. Translated: Firestone and Bridgestone/Firestone have been an important part of Akron’s fabric for more than 100 years. Those bonds are very hard to break, if not impossible.

And Emkes heavily praised the efforts of the Akron team, reminding everyone that BFS’ tires originate Akron.

BFS (and Goodyear, too) is smart enough to know you can stack bricks anywhere – and get a good deal to do so. But you cannot find good, seasoned employees – especially scientists and engineers – anywhere.

If you have comments to share, send to me at [email protected].

– Jim Smith

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