NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 13, 2006) — Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) said it has made a final decision to close its 37-year-old Oklahoma City tire plant on or about Dec. 31.
BFS said its boards have approved the decision, which the tire maker has been mulling since April.
“This is a very difficult decision for everyone, especially since we've had such a great relationship with the Oklahoma City community for nearly 40 years,” said Steve Brooks, vice president of manufacturing operations for BFS. “But the reality is this plant produces tires in the low-end segment of the market where demand is shrinking and fierce competition from low-cost producing countries is increasing. Even with substantial new investment, global market forces make it virtually impossible to restore the plant to a competitive position and stem the huge losses.”
BFS is currently in contract talks with the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents employees at the plant. The company said it met with union officials earlier this year to discuss alternatives to closure, but neither side could offer a “viable solution” to the problem.
Terms of the closure will be negotiated with the union, BFS said. The plant will continue to produce tires in the short-term, but production will slow down then cease by the end of the year.
The Oklahoma City plant makes radial passenger and light truck tires. It began production in 1969 and has a capacity of 43,500 units per day, according to Tire Business statistics. That capacity makes the factory one of BFS's largest in the U.S., along with its non-union facility in Wilson, N.C.
The plant employs about 1,400 active workers. More than 1,200 are USW members.