Bridgestone wanted to make about nine more tires a minute in Graniteville and on Monday unveiled the new production area that will do it.
A Firestone Transforce was the first tire created by a $346 million expansion at Bridgestone America’s Aiken County plant. The plant will now be able to produce about 13,000 more radial tires a day.
Bridgestone executives, South Carolina and Aiken County officials and dozens of employees toured the addition Monday. The approximately 75 people were asked to sign the first manufactured Transforce tire.
“This is a model as far as the partnership that we’ve developed with Aiken County between the business and the community working together …,” said Barry Owens, Bridgestone Americas’ vice president of manufacturing.
Since March 2012, an additional 750,000 square feet of production space was built onto the facility. The expansion created more than 300 jobs, about 250 of which already have been filled. Hiring will continue through the rest of the year.
“We need to encourage our young people that this is a great environment to come work in,” said Will Williams, the director of the Economic Development Partnership serving Aiken and Edgefield counties.
The expanded operation will produce 37,750 tires daily, or 13.4 million tires annually.
Construction continues on the company’s nearby 1.5 million-square-foot plant that will manufacture large off-road tires. Construction started in early 2012, and production is expected to begin in July 2015.
Bridgestone will spend about $1.2 billion on both projects, which are expected to create a total of 850 new jobs in Aiken County.
The Graniteville facility will be the largest plant operated by the Japanese tire company, which has 47 tire manufacturing facilities around the world, Owens said.
“That just shows the confidence that the organization has in Aiken County and its excellent people,” he said.