Continental Tire the Americas officially began construction of its Sumter County tire manufacturing plant today. Initial employment estimates for the $500 million plant are about 1,600 jobs. (Image/Provided)
By James T. Hammond
Published March 28, 2012
Continental Tire the Americas officially began construction of its Sumter County tire manufacturing plant Wednesday, even as heavy equipment leveled the 330-acre site on U.S. 521.
Initial employment estimates for the $500 million plant are about 1,600 jobs.
But Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas, said it would be reasonable to expect the plant to employ 2,000 to 3,000 workers when fully mature in perhaps two decades.
Etzel said the $500 million investment will include the first two phases of the plant. Further expansion beyond 2021 will depend upon the progress of the initial operations. But other Continental Tire plants in Europe and Mt. Vernon, Ill., typically employ as many as 3,000.
Continental Tire expects construction to be completed by end of 2013, with the start of production in early 2014. Officials predicted annual production capacity of 8 million tires when full production levels are reached. They offered a timeline of milestones as the plant is built and ramps up production:
- Very soon, the company will recruit about 18 key engineering and management employees, including human resource professionals to manage hiring of employees at the Sumter County plant.
- The staffing process and manufacturing training for the first 150 employees will begin in the first quarter of 2013. Continental has partnered with Ready SC's local technical colleges to assist with staffing and training interested candidates.
- Production in 2014 is expected to be 800,000 units.
- By 2015, production is expected to rise to 2 million tires annually.
- In 2016, Continental expects to make 3 million tires in Sumter County.
- By 2017, employment should reach 800 people.
- By 2021, when phase one and phase two are complete, employment should hit 1,600 and annual output should reach 8 million tires at the 1 million-square-foot production facility.
Etzel and others said the new plant is designed for growth.
Today’s ceremony, attended by about 400 state and local governmental officials and other interested parties, marked the beginning of the construction process.
|From left to right: Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas; Gov. Nikki Haley; and Nikolai Setzer, member of Continental’s executive board and head of Continental’s global tire business. (Photo/James T. Hammond)|
"Today's groundbreaking ceremony for our new Sumter plant is a celebration of collaboration," said Etzel. "This project would not have been possible without the support of the state of South Carolina and Gov. Nikki Haley. I would like to offer our sincere thanks to Gov. Haley, the state of South Carolina, the Port Authority, Sumter County and the city of Sumter. We are very delighted to bring to Sumter approximately 1,600 new, well-paying jobs with excellent benefits. The outstanding commitment of our employees to quality and efficiency paved our way to this investment."
Approximately 80 of the new jobs are part of the expansion of CTA's headquarters located in Lancaster County.
Nikolai Setzer, member of Continental's executive board and head of Continental's global tire business, said, "building this new facility in Sumter is an important part of Continental's growth strategy worldwide and, in this case, in particular for the U.S. market. We are experiencing an increasing demand for Continental and General brand passenger and light truck tires in the U.S. and with the Sumter plant we can meet our customer's needs and can grow our business. This $500 million investment is our very clear commitment to our customers."
Setzer said the $500 million commitment in Sumter County represented more than one-third of the company’s $1.3 billion special growth fund.
“We deeply believe in the United States and our long-term opportunities in this market,” Setzer said. He said Continental starts new plants on a “sister plant” principle, and workers from Continental plants worldwide will be coming to Sumter to ensure that the highest quality tires roll off the assembly line “from day one.”
Gov. Nikki Haley said, “When you have a top quality company like Continental, you really do anything and everything to get them here.”
As a gesture to the Sumter community, Continental announced a $25,000 donation to Sumter School District. The donation will pay for 200-book classroom libraries for English classes in each of the seven middle schools in the district. Etzel presented the check to Sumter School District Superintendent Randolph Bynum and several middle school students who attended the event.
Continental Tire the Americas has continued to hire employees during the economic downturn. Since January 2008, CTA has created more than 2,500 new jobs in the Americas region. Some 625 of these new positions were created in the U.S., particularly in the Mount Vernon, Ill. plant. To keep up with business growth, CTA announced the hiring of more than 400 employees at the Mount Vernon plant in May 2011.
Continental Corp. hired 30,000 new employees globally in 2010 and 2011, a period when the company saw a 20% increase in demand for its tires. Continental currently has approximately 164,000 employees in 46 countries.