Chester County, S.C., got its rumored tire plant, but it wasn’t Goodyear that came knocking. Instead, it was Singapore-based Giti Tire Group, which yesterday morning, June 16, revealed plans to build a $560 million radial passenger and light truck/SUV plant.
An excited crowd in Chester County, S.C., waited with baited breath to see which company would be bringing jobs to their county as the tiremaker was able to keep its plans under wrap until the last moment. The county, which was considered for plants by other tiremakers but had lost out, was extremely pleased with Giti’s announcement.
“What a day it is for Chester County,” said longtime County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey. “We’ve been the bridesmaid so many times it seems like we’ve filled up the landfill with bouquets.”
At full capacity, the new plant will produce both replacement and OE tires, and will employ some 1,700 people. With an estimated 1.8 million square feet under roof, the plant will include a distribution center off of I-77.
“This significant investment represents our strong commitment to customers in North America,” said Dr. Enki Tan, executive chairman of Giti Tire Group. “This is a key milestone for Giti Tire and an important part of our growth strategy worldwide. Existing business and strong demand for Giti Tire’s passenger and light truck tires in North America has made this significant investment in South Carolina possible.”
On hand for this morning’s announcement were state and county officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley; Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt; Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority; and R. Carlisle Roddey, Chester County supervisor and chairman of Chester County Council. Additionally, Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore Ambassador to the United States.
“This is another huge win for our state and Team South Carolina. We are the nation’s tire capital, and Giti’s decision to come to our state is another great sign that our economic development efforts are paying off for the hardworking people of South Carolina,” said Gov. Haley, who has racked up at least four new tire plants or plant expansion projects over the last four years.
An internal and external team for Giti spent five years analyzing dozen of factors and looking at twelve different sites in six states before it arrived at Chester County
“Chester County is an excellent location for Giti Tire, offering an extensive and efficient infrastructure network including interstate highways, rail, close proximity to airports and a major metropolitan area to support the company’s needs and growth for many years to come,” said Lei Huai Chin, managing director of Giti Tire Group.
During press interviews after the announcement Tan shed a little more light on what the plant means to Giti Tire’s strategy.
“We cannot just rely on imports. We’re growing the business here we have to diversify,” he said. “We have increase the capability of our supply chain and we have to be closer to our customer.”
Tan noted that independent tire dealers as a group are very important to Giti’s strategy and the plant will better help meet their needs with increased production and flexibility.
The independent tire dealers are very important,” he said. “We need to support them.”
As the first North American plant for Giti, the tiremaker will focus on producing three brands during the first phase – GT Radial, Primewell and Dextero. Future phases may be considered, but depend on market conditions, Tan said.
Exact dates for a groundbreaking have not been set as there are still several approvals to get and other logistics to consider. Giti’s next steps for the plant will be to work on design details, seek approvals from the state, work on infrastructure and begin hiring key people for the facility.
Formed in 1951, Giti Tire Group is now the world’s 10th largest tiremaker, with 2013 sales estimated at $4.3 billion.
Giti is represented in North America by Giti Tire (USA) Ltd., its sales, marketing, and distribution company, headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Tan said the tiremaker will continue to have its U.S. headquarters in California and other operations around the country. Additionally, Giti will grow its sales U.S. sales force to better serve the new North American plant.
“I don’t expect to be coming to work in the same place. It’s a big country and we need to serve different parts of it,” he said.
In the U.S. and Canada, Giti Tire (USA) markets and sells GT Radial, Primewell, Dextero, and Runway brand passenger, light truck/SUV and medium truck tires. “The first phase of production capacity is expected to be 5 million tires annually. Giti Tire plans to further increase production capacity in response to future market demand and conditions,” said Tom McNamara, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Giti Tire (USA).
The Giti Tire Group in total has four R&D centers in China, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., which employ some 600 scientists and support staff. The company has seven tire plants at five locations in China – Anhui, Fujian, Chongqing, Yinchuan and Hualin.
Chester County is near Charlotte, N.C., and has a population of some 35,560 people over its 586 square miles of land. With a current unemployment rate of around 7% – it was as high as 20% in mid-2009 – the county certainly could use additional employment opportunities. It is already home to a number of recognized multi-national corporations such as Owens Corning, Guardian Glass, PPG Industries, Omnova Solutions, ThyssenKrupp Steel and GAF.