TUPELO, Miss. (Dec. 16, 2003) — Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is investing $7.5 million in its Tupelo passenger tire plant to boost capacity for larger-diameter performance tires.
The investment will allow Cooper to add capacity starting early next year for 17- and 18-inch high-performance Zeon tires. Eventually the plant will add equipment to increase capacity for sizes up to 22 inches in rim diameter, Cooper said.
The plant upgrade includes new tire building equipment as well as the transfer of equipment from other Cooper plants, according to John T. Ebert, plant manager, who called the project a “continued retooling of the plant for new-growth product lines.”
All told, the investment will add capacity for 50 new sizes and will create 35 new jobs at the 1,500-employee plant. Cooper started making 16-inch versions of the Zeon performance line earlier this year at the 1.4 million-sq.-ft. factory.
Mr. Ebert credited the efforts of the plant's employees “to achieve a high level of lean manufacturing” as the key in the decision to expand the Tupelo plant. The Tupelo Community Development Foundation and Itawamba Community College were involved in training programs for the plant's employees to achieve these goals.
Since the beginning of 2003, Cooper has added 152 new employees in connection with its new Zeon product line. The Findlay, Ohio-based tire maker has operated the plant since 1984, when it took over, renovated and equipped the former Mansfield Tire & Rubber Co. plant.
Since then, Cooper has doubled the plant size to 1.4 million square feet and carried out more than a dozen expansions, including an $18.2 million addition in 1987 and a $19.5 million expansion in 1990.