While unlikely to seriously impact dealers, Michelin North America's recently announced plans to relocate the Akron-based operations of its Uniroyal Goodrich subsidiary to Greenville, S.C., foretells the end of an important chapter in industry history. Except for the presence of the B.F. Goodrich Co., whose tire operations were merged with those of Uniroyal in 1986, Akron, Ohio, most likely never would have become the ``rubber capital'' and the tire manufacturing industry might have evolved very differently from that of today.
Ironically, the forthcoming exit of Uniroyal Goodrich is scheduled to be completed by mid August of 1995-the 100th anniversary of the former company's entry into tire manufacturing-the event that ultimately led Akron to be called the ``rubber city.''
The company's departure will write the final chapter in the saga that began in 1870 when Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich relocated his small rubber products company to Akron from Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., to escape cut-throat competition in the eastern U.S.
The 29-year-old former physician was drawn to the then-small community by the prospect of cheap land and plentiful water on the banks of the Ohio canal.
Some 23 Akronites chipped in a total of $13,600 to help him launch the operation, which ultimately proved successful and attracted other companies to the area, including Goodyear, Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., General Tire Co. and Mohawk Rubber Co.
In the decades following its first tire production in 1895, B.F. Goodrich pioneered many important developments, a year later becoming the first U.S. company to put pneumatic tires on a commercially-produced motorcar-the Winton-and in 1947 the first to market a tubeless passenger tire.
Many remember when Akron truely was the heart of a domestic tire industry dominated by the ``Big Five,'' Goodyear, Firestone, Uniroyal, B.F. Goodrich and General-all but one of which were headquartered there. For those with such memories, the passing of Uniroyal Goodrich from the Akron scene won't go unnoticed.