Originally created 12/23/99

Plant breaks ground on addition



GRANITEVILLE -- The $24.5 million expansion of the Bridgestone/Firestone South Carolina tire manufacturing plant was made possible by teamwork, Steve Brooks, general manager for operations, said at a ground-breaking ceremony at the Sage Mill plant Tuesday afternoon.

"We as a team are proud to have accomplished the objectives that at this point in time brought us to this expansion," Mr. Brooks said.

Both company and local officials agree that this week's event is likely to be the first of many for Bridgestone/Firestone in Aiken County.

"It's a good indicator that the plant is growing and that our initial expectations for this company were well founded," Fred Humes, executive director of the Economic Development Partnership, said. "It is a part of an incremental process that will see the Sage Mill plant become one of the largest in the Bridgestone system."

BFSC President Nobuo Kawakami joined Mr. Brooks, Mr. Humes and Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young in the symbolic turn of earth preceding construction of the 250,000-square foot addition to the $435 million facility. Construction is expected to get under way Monday and when complete, sometime in mid-2001, will enable the company to reach its production goal of 25,000 tires a day. The expansion is an add-on to the present facility that will house a third raw rubber mixer, which will increase the plant's capacity by one-third, company spokeswoman Mary McLaughlin said. It will also help the company meet current demands for larger tires such as those required by sports utility vehicles.

The facility produces tires for light trucks and passenger cars.

Though the expansion does not mean more jobs for Aiken County, it is nevertheless an important economic milestone for the area.

"Whenever you have a $25 million expansion, it's a good investment in Aiken County. It certainly adds to our revenue base, and it's a sign of the county's continuing expansion," Mr. Young said.

In addition, ARNCO, an Ohio company that manufactures cable installation products, is expected to announce plans to build a $4 million dollar plant in the main section of Sage Mill Industrial Park located across Bettis Academy Road from BFSC. Although ARNCO president Robert F. Smith declined to confirm the company's intentions to locate in the park, Aiken County Council has cleared the way for the sale of 14 acres to the company as well as the construction of a rail spur to serve it.

Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895.