Things might not be progressing at Marangoni Tread North America Inc. as quickly as Jack Woodland had hoped, but they are progressing.
Progress now means Marangoni Tread N.A. is picking up stakes and heading east. Specifically, the Walnut Creek-based retreading systems franchiser will move its corporate headquarters to Nashville, Tenn., to space within a former Pirelli Armstrong Tire Co. factory.
Mr. Woodland, chairman of Marangoni Tread, said the site selection came down to three factors: The company was looking to move to the Nashville area, or that general area in the U.S., and the site has good facilities as well as warehouse space.
And, perhaps most important of all, he said, ``It was available.''
Mr. Woodland said the company plans to initially establish its corporate offices, which will be home to 10-12 employees. That number will increase as operations are added at the site.
That includes warehousing, which he said is scheduled to begin at some point in 2003. Further down the road-possibly as soon as the end of 2003-the company could begin manufacturing tread rubber at the site, idle since Pirelli closed the doors there in late 1996.
``There is equipment there,'' said Mr. Woodland. Marangoni will lease the facility, but he declined to say from whom.
Marangoni said three years ago it was looking at the prospect of building a plant to make its proprietary Ringtread circular tread rubber in the U.S. and having it operational in 2000. The company said at the time it was looking at sites in Alabama and Georgia.
Mr. Woodland now refers to that project as ``deferred,'' saying the parent company, Marangoni S.p.A., instead went ahead with building an operation in Brazil.
``That was part of our strategic plan,'' he said, ``to emphasize developing our interests in the U.S. as our customer base gets bigger.''
While a new plant was on the drawing board, Marangoni set itself a goal of having 20 RTS (Ringtread System) franchises operating in North America by 2001. However, it only recently signed its 10th-Looney's Tire Service of Little Rock, Ark.,
Mr. Woodland doesn't apologize or make excuses for that, simply saying the company fell behind. He pointed to economic factors as one reason why.
``We didn't develop as fast as possible,'' he said. ``We went into a recession in the U.S. Outside of that it's coming along really well. We're very pleased with the progress in the U.S.''
He added that the magic number of 20 is still a goal, one the company expects to reach by year-end 2003.
Mr. Woodland did not say what Marangoni plans to invest to set up the Nashville operation; previously, the company said it had budgeted $10 million to build a tread rubber plant.
In addition, Marangoni has promoted Bill Sweatman to president and CEO of Marangoni Tread N.A., replacing Mr. Woodland, who becomes chairman of the company and will remain in Walnut Creek. Mr. Sweatman joined Marangoni Tread N.A. in late 2000 as executive vice president. He has more than 20 years' experience in the tire industry, including 13 with Bandag Inc. and seven with Michelin North America Inc.