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Singaporean tire-maker to build Chester County plant


Staff Report
colanews@scbiznews.com
Published June 16, 2014

Giti Tire, identified by the S.C. Department of Commerce as the world’s 10th-largest tire manufacturer, will build a $560 million manufacturing plant and create about 1,700 jobs in Chester County. The plant at the Carolinas I-77 Megasite (.pdf) will be the Singapore-based company’s first manufacturing venture in North America.

Gov. Nikki Haley was among officials who participated in today’s announcement at Richburg, saying the project is “another huge win” for South Carolina. She described the state as the “nation's tire capital.”

S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said Giti will be the fifth original equipment tire manufacturer in the state, joining Michelin North America, Continental, Bridgestone and Trelleborg A.B. Both Michelin and Continental Tire the Americas are also headquartered in South Carolina.

Giti’s Executive Chairman Enki Tan (from right) spoke to the media with Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. (Photo by James T. Hammond)
Giti’s Executive Chairman Enki Tan (from right) spoke to the media with Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. (Photo by James T. Hammond)

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The plant will be the company’s ninth in its global system, which is concentrated mostly in China.

Giti plans to create the 1,700 jobs over the next decade to meet growing demand for its tires in North America. Factors in picking Chester County included the area's workforce and training opportunities through the technical college system, proximity to major transportation infrastructure, port facilities in Charleston and access to the growing Southeast market.

Lei Huai Chin, managing director of Giti Tire Group, said the location offers 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."

Enki Tan, the company’s executive chairman, said “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.”

The Chester County plant will make both passenger and light truck tires for automotive manufacturers and replacement markets, the statement said. The 1.8 million-square-foot facility will include manufacturing and distribution operations.

Tan said the construction schedule is in the “permits and approvals process,” and did not say exactly when the plant is expected to be operational.

Doug Woodward, director of research and economics professor at the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business, said the state has become the “center for tire production in the U.S.”

“I think these are investments that will last and are going to produce good-paying jobs,” Woodward said. He said tire companies are “making investments right now and not a lot of companies are.”

Woodward said the state’s rural communities that in recent decades have lost textile jobs face the greatest economic development challenges and are benefitting from state industry recruiters targeting them for manufacturing and also from the state’s job training programs.

He said “blue-collar manufacturing jobs” are good news.

“Most places in the world would be elated to have employment that is not in any way cannibalizing the employment base here,” Woodward said. “They are all spread around the state, which is good.”

He said the state has developed a “very strong concentration of automotive companies” that will help attract more manufacturing announcements.

During the first phase of production, the plant will have a projected capacity of 5 million tires annually. Giti Tire plans to increase production capacity based on market demand.

The company has been in the tire business since 1951. Brands include GT Radial, Primewell, Dextero and Runway tires.

The SC Technical College System’s economic development division, known as readySC, will help with recruitment and training.

Ryan Peterson, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s vice president of automotive, said the announcement represents a successful team effort to “bring jobs and manufacturing back to the U.S. We applaud Giti Tire and Gov. Haley, and we are excited to bring quality, affordable tires to our customers that will also help us meet our goal to spend an additional $250 billion on domestically manufactured products over 10 years."

Both Haley and Tan noted that Wal-Mart’s U.S. manufacturing initiative played a role in bringing Giti to a decision to make tires in this country. Tan noted that Wal-Mart stores sell Giti tires. Tan also listed among its customers General Motors and Firestone tire stores.

Haley was scheduled to attend two other economic development announcements today in York County.

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