Staying Put: BFNAT Tech Center Remaining in Akron - Tire Review Magazine

Staying Put: BFNAT Tech Center Remaining in Akron

Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire will keep its technical center in Akron, spurning Murfreesboro, Tenn., as the site of a planned $100 million state-of-the-art facility.

The announcement was made during a celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of Bridgestone Corp’s $2.6 billion purchase of the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in May 1988.

The deal was announced by Bridgestone Americas Chairman and CEO Mark Emkes, who was joined by Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and Summit County Executive Russ Pry, all of whom worked with BFNAT to put together a tentative public-private financial package to retain the tech center and its 1,000 jobs. Also on the dias was Bob Handlos, BFNAT’s vice president of product development, who was the point man in negotiations with the state, city and county.

Some 1,000 BFNAT tech center employees and their families attended the event, which had been portrayed as a celebration of the combining of Bridgestone and Firestone.

Emkes made the announcement while standing in the shadow of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. founder Harvey Firestone, a statue which graces a plaza in front of the company’s current technical center.

Emkes cautioned that a lot of work remains to be completed before the deal is finalized, but he said he felt comfortable with the progress made and said he had every confidence it would get done.

“We’re pleased we have the framework of an agreement with officials in Akron, Summit County and the state of Ohio that will allow us to stay in Akron and build a first-class technology building,” Emkes said. “We’re working together with Akron, Summit County, the Port Authority and Ohio officials in hopes of getting a final agreement. While we’re excited to have this agreement framework, we still have some work to do before we can break ground.”

Bridgestone Americas Holding Chairman and CEO Mark Emkes’ announcement that BFNAT’s U.S. technical center would remain in Akron was applauded by (from left) BAH Vice President of Public Affairs Christine Karbowiak; Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher; Bob Handlos, BFNAT’s vice president of product development; Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and Summit County Executive Russ Pry.

To be finalized, the recommendation must be approved by the boards of BFNAT, Bridgestone Americas Holding and Bridgestone Corp., as well as the approvals of various government entities.

While specific details of the project have not been worked out, the development plan calls for a new 240,000-square-foot technical center to be built on available land at the current tech center site in south Akron. The current buildings will remain in place.

A new 400-space parking garage will be constructed across the street from the new center, with an elevated walkway spanning South Main St. to the new tech center building.

In addition, the city will make infrastructure improvements (curbs, sidewalks, sewers, lighting, traffic signals, etc.) at or near the technical center site and invest to further redevelop the neighborhoods surrounding the tech center campus and the area within the South Main St. and Firestone Parkway area.

The project is scheduled to begin in early 2010, with completion set before the end of 2012.

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