What does it take to build a tire factory?
For Yokohama Rubber Co.’s first green field factory in the U.S., it’s taken just over 24 months and tireless teamwork with the state of Mississippi, as well as construction and utility partners.
Over the course of two years more than 535,000 cubic yards of cut and fill earth was moved, 38,000 yards of concrete was laid and several thousand tons of steel was set to create a nearly 1 million-square-foot facility.
In addition, 4 miles of new water line, 3 miles of new sewer lines, 2 miles of new railroad, 2 miles of natural gas pipeline, a half mile of electrical transmission lines, an electrical substation, and a 1 million gallon elevated water tank were constructed.
The culmination of all this effort was realized when Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi celebrated its grand opening of the new TBR tire plant on Oct. 5, 2015. The plant is the Yokohama’s fastest build ever; opening just two years after its Sept. 23, 2013, groundbreaking ceremony.
“It became very obvious to YRC, that if we wanted to meet the growing demand and help our American commercial tire partners succeed, it would no longer be sufficient to only sell tires from our existing manufacturing plants around the world,” said Hikomitsu Noji, president of the Yokohama Rubber Co. “This is how the plant in Mississippi came to exist.”
“This plant tells our commercial tire partners that Yokohama is committed to this marketplace,” said Takaharu Fushimi CEO of Yokohama Corp. North America. “[Our customers] will get what they want when they want, as products will no longer travel across land and sea to reach them. Now the tires they need will literally be a call away.”
More than 300 people were in attendance at the grand opening ceremony of Yokohama’s latest plant including local, state and federal officials as well as Yokohama executives. The ceremony included plants tours, a tree planting and a traditional Kagami Biraki ceremony.
YTMM is located within Mississippi’s golden triangle region – an area in northern Mississippi encompassing Columbus, Starkville and West Point.
Phase 1 for the site, an investment of nearly $300 million, is a 1 million-square-foot facility that houses manufacturing, warehouse and operations facilities and employs nearly 500 employees. To date, YTMM has hired 260 employees.
The new manufacturing facility is one of Yokohama’s most technologically advanced plants globally and features a number of automated processes including automatic guided vehicles.
The plant rolled off its first pre-production tire in April 2015 and when it reaches full capacity at the end of 2017, it will produce 1 million TBR tires annually, Yokohama said.
While its closest distribution center to the facility is in Louisville, Ky., Yokohama has plans to re-do its logistic chains, which could lead to additional facilities in the region, the company said. Additionally, Yokohama will begin construction on a new office building at the Mississippi site starting in 2016.
Prior to the Mississippi plant’s opening the majority of TBR tires for the North American market were sourced from YRC’s plants in Japan and Thailand, as well as stateside through its joint venture GTY Tire Co. at Continental Tire the America’s plant in Mt. Vernon, Ill. As its Mississippi plant comes online, the tiremaker has plans to wind down its partnership in GTY, it said.
The site that houses the new plant sits on approximately 570 acres of land. During development Yokohama cleared the site for up to three additional builds. The tiremaker does not have a timeline for these three additional phases, but did not rule out the possibility of a passenger tire facility at the site.
“We are studying now,” Noji said. “If the customer wants more tires from Yokohama, then it will be time to grow.”
YTC owns and operates one other U.S. plant, a passenger/light truck tire facility located in Salem, Va., which it acquired as part of its purchase of the former Mohawk Tire Co.