Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C.'s long-range plans for the $500 million tire plant now under construction near Sumter include a near doubling of the plant's size and capacity by 2021 and possibly the addition of truck tire capacity, company executives said at the plant's recent groundbreaking.
Conti's $500 million budget covers the first phase of the project, starting with a 1 million-sq.-ft. plant on a 330-acre plot of land several miles south of Sumter in south-central South Carolina and ramp capacity up to 5 million units by 2017.
Longer term, though, the company plans to add more manufacturing space and boost annual capacity to 8 million car and light truck tires by 2021, according to Craig Baartman, project manager.
The site has sufficient space, he said during a conversation with Tire Business, to accommodate another doubling of capacity to 16 million units and the addition of manufacturing space for truck tires. There are no concrete plans for either of these at the moment, he added, but the space is laid out to accommodate such additions.
CTA expects to start installing equipment by May 2013 in time to start production by early 2014, Mr. Baartman said. Production should hit 800,000 units the first year, 2 million in 2015, 3 million in 2016 and 5 million by 2017, he said, by which time employment will hit 800.
Therafter, the plant's second-phase expansion would kick in, he said, to push capacity to 8 million units and 1,600 employees.
Conti started clearing ground for the site late last year, but held a ceremonial groundbreaking March 28 with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley among the invited guests.
CTA CEO Jochen Etzel called the groundbreaking a “celebration of collaboration” among state and local authorities and his company, and said it “shows Conti is dedicated to the U.S. market” and reflects “Conti's commitment to our customers.”
Conti is keen to get the plant operating, he said, in order to improve the firm's ability to supply American customers, both replacement and OE, with U.S.-built product.
Nikolai Setzer, member of Conti's executive board and head of Continental's global tire business, called the project “an important part of Continental's growth strategy worldwide and, in this case, in particular for the U.S. market.”
Ms. Haley told Tire Business South Carolina faced a lot of competition for the project, but, “Losing (the project) was not an option.
“At the end of the day, (investors) want cash flow and profit margins,” she said, “and if we can give them (these), then they can hire more people, . . .”
The project is being supported by more than $40 million in state and local assistance, according to county and city officials, including a $31 million grant for purchase of and improvements to the 330-acre site south of Sumter, approved by the Sumter County Coordinating Council, and a $4 million federally funded Community Development Block Grant through Sumter County to offset costs associated with road and public infrastructure improvements, according to Sumter County Economic Development.
Mr. Setzer said Conti has experienced growth in North America of about 20 percent annually the past few years and the added output from this plant will help fulfill demand.
CTA also is expanding its headquarters in Lancaster County, S.C., and will add about 80 jobs there to support the firm's growth.
During the ceremony at the plant site, Mr. Etzel presented a $25,000 donation to Sumter School District to help pay pay for 200-book classroom libraries for English classes in each of the seven middle schools in the district.