FINDLAY, Ohio-New business from mass merchandisers has prompted Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. to allocate $112 million to increase radial passenger tire production and warehousing at three plants. Expansion plans for tire making facilities in Findlay, where Cooper is based, Albany, Ga., and Tupelo, Miss., have resulted primarily from new business with Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Pep Boys-Manny, Moe and Jack, said J. Alec Reinhardt, Cooper executive vice president and chief financial officer.
The firm's only other passenger tire plant-in Texarkana, Ark.-will not be expanded, he said.
``The expanded warehousing and production capacity increases will allow us to meet our internal objectives and fulfill all our customer requirements,'' said John Fahl, the company's tire operations president.
About half of the $112 million will go toward increasing passenger tire capacity and customer service capability in Albany and adding 300,000 square feet to the 1.8 million-sq.-ft. plant, the company said. Construction will begin in mid-June.
Cooper purchased the former Firestone tire plant in 1990 and recently boosted medium radial truck tire production there by 50 percent.
Expansions at the other plants will begin in May.
In Findlay, the company will add a 140,300-sq.-ft. warehouse to its distribution center and will continue to convert existing bias truck tire construction capacity to radial passenger production.
At its all-radial Tupelo plant, Cooper will enlarge an existing warehouse by 200,000 square feet and boost radial production with additional tire curing equipment.
Through a new agreement in March to produce a larger share of Sears-brand tires, Cooper has become the retailer's prime supplier of private brand tires. The manufacturer already builds tires for Sears' Western Auto, Tire America and NTW subsidiaries.
In addition, Cooper last month outbid Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. to become the sole supplier of private brand tires to Pep Boys, a Philadelphia-based auto parts retailer chain with more than 436 U.S. stores.
Cooper's business also has been boosted since Autobacs Seven Co. Ltd., Japan's biggest tire retailer, last year agreed to be that country's exclusive supplier of Cooper tires.