SPRINGFIELD, Ill.-Top elected officials in Illinois are getting involved in efforts to save Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s Decatur, Ill., tire manufacturing facility, which the company has marked for closing.
A bi-partisan lineup of officials including Illinois Gov. George Ryan, U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Decatur Mayor Terry Howley and various federal and state legislators met with Bridgestone/Firestone CEO John T. Lampe in Springfield July 9. Their goal was to persuade Mr. Lampe to reconsider the plan to close the Decatur facility by year-end. A BFS press release July 10 called the discussions ``very open,'' but held out little hope that the tire maker would change its mind.
``In order to ensure our company's future financial viability, it is clear that one of our plants must be closed,'' the release stated. ``A number of factors, such as size, age and product line flexibility, make Decatur the most likely candidate.''
When it announced the probable closing of the Decatur facility June 27, BFS said the plant was running at only about 50 percent of its capacity of 30,000 tires per day. Built as a tank manufacturing plant in 1942 and renovated as a tire plant in 1963, Decatur is the company's oldest facility in North America.
Some 2.7 million Decatur-made Firestone Wilderness AT tires were among the 6.5 million tires recalled by Bridgestone/Firestone in August 2000, following revelations about tread separations that allegedly claimed the lives of 203 U.S. motorists.
The potential loss of the Decatur plant and its 1,800 union jobs-including 450 workers who were placed on indefinite layoff in January-is a traumatic prospect for Decatur and for United Steelworkers Union Local 713.
``We are going to turn over every rock and stone to keep this plant open,'' Local 713 President Roger Gates said on June 27, the day the closing was announced by BFS.