HAZELWOOD, Mo.-A former Firestone regional warehouse is being converted into Treadco Inc.'s first mold-cure retreading plant, which will use rubber and technology furnished by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to process retreads bearing the names of both companies. The 60,000-sq.-ft., single-story structure is located in Hazelwood, a community of about 13,000 not far from the St. Louis International Airport and U.S. Interstate Rt. 70.
BFS closed the Hazelwood warehouse May 1 in order to make room for the new cooperative retreading venture. Treadco will own and operate the plant and is leasing the building.
Treadco hopes to have the plant ready for initial production by September, company President James J. Seiter said. When in full operation, the plant will be capable of turning out 200 units per day in most popular medium truck sizes, he said.
The facility will be the first mold-cure operation undertaken by Treadco, which operates 27 other retread plants-all of which are precure shops and all but one of which use Bandag Inc.'s process. Treadco, which is said to be Bandag's largest franchisee, turns out about 2,500 retreads a day.
The Fort Smith, Ark.-based company opened its first non-Bandag precure plant May 1 in Las Vegas. That operation uses the Hercules/Cedco precure process.
Treadco also recently opened a sales outlet in Fontana, Calif., and plans to work these new territories using products primarily from the Las Vegas plant, according to Mr. Seiter.
He said Treadco selected the Hazelwood location primarily because it would provide the firm an entry into the St. Louis market.
Mr. Seiter said the process used in the Hazelwood plant will differ in some respects from most conventional mold-cure operations in the U.S. but will not be used to produce bead-to-bead retreads.
BFS plans to ship uncured rubber to Treadco's Hazelwood facility from one of its U.S. tire plants, and the stock will be identical to that used by BFS in new-tire manufacturing, according to Pete Bogantinoff, BFS coordinator of the retreading project.
Mr. Bogantinoff said the process will be ``the closest to new-tire curing'' the industry has seen and will use the same type of extruder used by BFS to make new tires.
Curing presses for the operation are being produced to Bridgestone's specifications by Marangoni S.p.A. of Italy, while segmented matrices are being designed by Admiral Heintz Inc. of Wadsworth, Ohio.
Speculation about the nature and extent of the venture between Treadco and BFS has been widespread in the industry since plans for what was termed an ``experimental Treadco retreading facility'' were announced April 5.
Since then, BFS has provided additional information in an attempt to quell some of the speculation-particularly a rumor that the company plans to open a network of U.S. retread shops.
A company spokesman said May 16 BFS has ``no plans to open a network of company-owned retread plants in the U.S.'' and, should the firm sometime decide to become involved in retreading, it would do so only by working with independent retreaders.
Mr. Bogantinoff, in a telephone interview, said BFS was anxious to ``set the record straight'' and acknowledged that much of the problem had arisen due to a scarcity of detailed information earlier.
The company, Mr. Bogantinoff said, hadn't planned on announcing the project until later in the year. It became necessary to make the announcement, however, due to the responsibility of publicly held Treadco to include such information in its annual report and other legal filings.
The project could result in the opening of other plants based on the Bridgestone process, officials of both firms said. But Treadco doesn't have exclusive rights to the Bridgestone process or the BFS-produced rubber, they said.