NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 27, 2001)—Citing the need to reduce production capacity in the U.S., Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said it is considering closing its Decatur, Ill., tire plant.
The company delivered a “six-month notice of potential plant closure” June 27 to representatives of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).
While no final decision has been made, the company advised the USWA that the most feasible way to attain the necessary U.S. production level is to close the unit. The plant has approximately 1,500 employees and contractors.
Built in 1942, the Decatur plant has been at the center of BFS's recent recall tire woes. Many of the tires involved in the company's 6.5 million-tire recall, announced last August, were produced at the facility.
BFS said it is considering the closure to help it to more effectively match tire production to demand and to strengthen the company's core operations.
With delivery of the notice to the USWA, the company also said it wants to immediately enter into good-faith negotiations with the union regarding the potential plant closure, which would take place no later than Dec. 31, 2001 according to the notice.
“While we are encouraged by the response of our customers to our commitment to rebuild the Firestone brand, our tire plants are not running at capacity due to a number of factors including customer demand and an economic downturn,” said John McQuade, division vice president of BFS manufacturing operations.
“As part of our overall review of company operations we've been evaluating how we could most effectively respond to this situation. It just isn´t efficient to reduce shifts at all plants or to keep running all of our plants at lowered production levels. The most effective way to address this issue is to close one plant and raise production to levels nearing plant capacity at our other facilities.”
The Decatur plant originally was designed to make tanks for the U.S. Army during World War II. Firestone bought the plant in 1963 and modified the facility to build tires. It has been in continuous production since and is the oldest of BFS's passenger/light truck tire plants. “This will be a very difficult decision to make,” Mr. McQuade said. “We want to assure our employees that we recognize, and will try to deal with, the serious toll this may take on them, their families and the community.”