By Edward Noga, Crain News Service
AKRON (June 15, 2015) — I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I will kick one a little. About a year ago I suggested that Goodyear — which was considering where to put a new tire plant in the Americas — build it in Akron.
OK, I admitted it was a longshot.
If nostalgia for the old “Rubber City” days had any currency in a Goodyear site selection, Akron was loaded with riches. The company was invented and grew up there, and while all the big tire plants are gone, you can't drive across town without seeing the Goodyear name.
There is a neighborhood, schools, libraries and streets throughout the city named after things Goodyear, from Litchfield Road — after a long-time Goodyear president and chairman — to Preston Street, honoring a pilot of a hot-air balloon named “Goodyear” that won an international race in 1913.
Alas, nostalgia holds no cache in site selection. Still, I noted Akron remains the headquarters town for the tire maker. There is the University of Akron and other nearby universities heavy on polymer science. The region has lots of suppliers to the tire industry, isn't far from the Detroit 3 and the auto plants of the South, and...well, I made the pitch. So, apparently, did the city fathers of Akron.
Goodyear's bosses listened but last fall told Akron, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Ah well. Good for you, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. You get all the construction work, the eventual 1,000 employees and the boost to the local economy that comes from having an ultra-modern, high-tech tire plant in your midst. That's nothing new for that area, which has become a manufacturing hub that includes the site of numerous auto makers and their suppliers, including from the tire and rubber industry. Goodyear's factory will be but one of many.
At least the Goodyear gem didn't end up in South Carolina. The state where unions would be on a terrorist list if Gov. Nikki R. Haley had her way (I exaggerate) has sucked up most of the new tire facilities in America — to the point South Carolina is now the “Tire Capital” of the nation.
Competition is good, but I'm no fan of U.S. cities and states low-balling each other with tax breaks and grants to win new or transferred businesses. I understand it from a company's view, but as a government policy it seems like a race to the bottom.
Is it coincidental that South Carolina ranks dead last in education, according to an annual ranking by the American Legislative Exchange Council? Schools cost money, which comes from taxes. Truth be told, South Carolina does rank 15th in state education policy and is working to improve schools, so I'm showing my prejudice as an Akron resident.
Also, Akron and Ohio did give the keys to the city to Goodyear to build its new HQ in town. They even renamed Martha Avenue, where the new structure resides, Innovation Way, which sounds better for a 21st Century company.
Martha never complained. Me either.