UNICOI, Tenn.-Specialty Tires of America Inc. will build a $30-million, 300,000-sq.-ft. facility in Unicoi to produce a diverse line of bias-ply tires. The factory is the first bias-ply production facility to be built in the U.S. in at least 30 years, according to Harry Millis of Fundamental Research Inc.
The plant is in the preliminary design stages, said Tom Lorden, senior vice president of manufacturing and technical for Specialty Tires. Manufacturing is slated to begin at the end of 1996, with full production coming on stream in 1997, he said.
Capacity at the plant is expected to reach 400,000 units annually, according to Donald D. Mateer III, senior vice president of commercial operations.
At peak production, the firm will employ 200 at the plant, which will be built on a 50-acre site. The unit can be doubled to 600,000 square feet and employ 500 if needed, Mr. Lorden said.
The new facility will complement tire production at Specialty Tires' Indiana, Pa., factory.
The Tennessee factory will feature a four-roll calendar to apply rubber to fabric. It also will supply coated fabric for the Pennsylvania plant.
Specialty Tires, a subsidiary of Polymer Enterprises Inc., makes bias-ply tires for niche markets, such as light aviation, light truck, agricultural, material handling, mining and racing. It also supplies tires for antique and collector vehicles.
The $30-million investment is the largest in the company's history, said Donald D. Mateer, chairman, president and CEO of Polymer Enterprises.
The viability of the new plant hinges on the amount of bias-ply capacity the major tire makers have and the rate at which the niche markets the firm serves are converting to radials, Mr. Millis said.
The antique/collector car arena, which will remain bias-ply, will be key, he said.