AIKEN - Bulldozers will begin site preparation early this morning for the $435 million Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tire-manufacturing plant.
A team of 10 to 12 bulldozers is expected to begin work shortly after dawn on the 550-acre site near Interstate 20 across from Sage Mill Industrial Park, according to Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman John Taylor.
"We need to begin preparing the site for construction work, and the first thing we'll do is have bulldozers clear the trees and begin site-preparation work," Mr. Taylor said.
The 1.5 million-square-foot plant is expected to begin production in the spring of 1999. It is estimated the plant will turn out 25,000 radial passenger and light-truck tires each day by the year 2000.
"We basically had to finalize the deal and sign all the appropriate papers to obtain ownership of the property," said Mr. Taylor, who would not reveal details of the purchase. "We're now the proud owners of that property."
An official ground-breaking ceremony will be held at a later date, Mr. Taylor said.
Giffels Associates Inc., an architectural and engineering firm out of Southfield, Mich., has been selected as the principal contractor to build the plant.
The speed in which Bridgestone/Firestone has moved on the project is unusual, said Fred Humes, director of the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership. The company began making inquiries about sites for the plant in April and made its formal announcement to build in Aiken on Aug. 26.
"It's going to be a fast-paced project," Mr. Humes said.
Mr. Taylor agreed, noting it was one of the fastest projects Bridgestone/Firestone had ever been involved with.
"I think it's indicative of how quickly we want to get this project under way," he said.
Mr. Humes said his office continues to receive phone calls from area contractors who want to work on the plant and from individuals who want jobs with the firm.
"There are plenty of contracts coming up," Mr. Humes said. "We would say anyone interested ought to make their desires known. It's a big project. Whoever does the work, the prime contractors, are going to have to be capable."
For contractors who want to contact Giffels, the address is 25200 Telegraph Road, P.O. Box 5025, Southfield, MI 48086-5025.
Individuals who want jobs should write to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., P.O. Box 140450, Nashville, TN 37214. Or those interested can call the Employment Security Commission in Aiken at (803) 641-7640.