MAYFIELD, Ky.(Jan. 17, 2002)—Continental North America Inc. will increase tire production at its Mayfield factory by 2,000 units a day over the next two months in response to a new contract with Ford Motor Co. and several upcoming new tire introductions.
The production increase will mean the addition of about 65 hourly production jobs at the facility in varied positions from machine operator to tire builder, according to Ken Herndon, Conti´s human resources manager at the plant. That will bring total employment at Mayfield to 1,350, with 1,200 of those hourly production workers.
No new equipment will be needed to handle the increased production because Continental had continued to invest in the plant and actually had added some equipment in 2001 when a planned increase was tabled when the economy “went the other way,” he said. “We´re pretty much set with equipment. We just need the people.”
Conti plans to add 1,000 tires a day in March and by May 1 start making the additional 1,000 tires for the daily ticket, he said. “That´s our schedule,” Mr. Herndon said. “That will give us time to get the new employees trained gradually over a period of time.”
After the production upgrade, Mayfield will manufacture about 20,000 passenger and light truck tires a day, he said.
The main impetus behind the expansion was word that Continental will be the sole tire supplier for the new 2003 Ford Expedition sport-utility vehicle that the auto maker is expected to launch in mid-2002. “We´re very pleased to be selected by Ford to source the new Expedition,” Mr. Herndon said. “We´re also pleased to be adding employees at a time when the economy isn´t doing so good.”
Conti also will be adding production because it plans to introduce five new broad market General and Continental brand tires and six private brand lines throughout 2002. “Some of those tires will be built in the Mayfield plant,” he said.
One person happy with the plans is Terry Beane, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 665, which represents the plant´s hourly workers. During a good part of 2001, the plant was shut down extra days to adjust for bulging tire inventories. “It´s good news, especially considering the times we´re living in right now," Mr. Beane said. "People were getting pretty frustrated with short workweeks.”
It also wasn´t too many years ago that the future of the Mayfield operation didn´t look promising. At one point, when workers had voted down a concession package Conti had threatened to downsize the facility. There was talk that the plant would go as low as 300 employees, but Mr. Beane said he didn´t think employment ever dropped below about 700.
Now, however, relations between labor and management are good, according to both Messr's Beane and Herndon, with the two sides working under a contract that doesn´t expire until 2006. “Good news is welcome in Mayfield,” Mr. Beane said.