CHARLOTTE, N.C.Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. (YRC) has opened a tire research and development center in Concord, N.C., that consolidates separate R&D staffs operating at a number of locations throughout the U.S. as well as some personnel from Japan.
The new center initially will operate with 56 employees, according to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.
The company, which operates tire plants in Salem, Va., and West Point, Miss., said the U.S. center would be its largest R&D center outside of Japan in terms of both functions and number of employees.
YRC said consolidating its R&D activities will strengthen its R&D framework and further accelerate its ability to deliver new tire products that meet market needs in a timely manner.
Yokohama has budgeted $2.7 million over three years for the center, according to Gov. McCrory and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC).
YRC said it would consider additional investment in its facilities in line with the expansion of the breadth of its activities.
Concord is a city of about 85,000 located about 25 miles northeast of downtown Charlotte.
The new center will focus initially on designing tires for passenger cars and other consumer applications, but gradually will expand its activities to include testing and evaluation, design of tires for industrial and construction machinery, technical services and quality assurance.
The establishment of the Yokohama Technical Development Center in North Carolina is yet another testament to our commitent to the North American market, said Tetsuya Kuze, vice president of Yokohama Corp. of North America, a YRC subsidiary that oversees all Yokohama-related operations in North America.
With a technical center in the United States, we accelerate our ability to deliver new tire products to both the original equipment and replacement tire markets.
Yokohama said it selected the Charlotte area because of its ability to attract high-quality staff and its close proximity to a hub airport.
Gov. McCrory added that North Carolina's leadership in motorsports and automotive components are helping bring great jobs to North Carolina.
The new center will have an annual payroll impact to the local economy of up to $4.5 million, the EDPNC said.
Yokohama's decision to open a facility in North Carolina was facilitated in part by a performance-based grant of up to $150,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides financial assistance in support of local governments in creating jobs and attracting economic investment.
Additionally, the decision fits with Phase IV of the company's Grand Design 100 medium-term management plan, which calls for placing greater importance on the North American market.
North America represented 17 percent of Yokohama's global sales, or roughly $885 million, last year.
Worldwide, YRC said it's been strengthening its tire R&D activities in regional centers close to the markets it serves.
The Company established a center in 2006 in Nürburgring, Germany; a Tire Test Center of Asia in Thailand in April 2009; and the Yokohama China Technical Center in China in January 2012.