RICHFIELD, Ohio — Nexen Tire Corp.'s technical presence in the U.S. is about to get significantly bigger.
The firm broke ground Oct. 17 on a 34,000-sq.-ft. technical center in Richfield that is expected to be operational by year-end 2018. The project represents an investment of about $5 million, not including additional equipment.
Nexen Project Engineer Gary Zolton said employment is projected to reach 40, up from 17, within five years after the new center is operational.
"Nexen is very committed to the North American market and this center we're building is a testament to that," Nexen Project Manager Aaron Neumann said.
The firm operates out of two buildings in Richfield — a 8,000-sq.-ft. office and a 5,000-sq.-ft. development space. The new site will bring all of Nexen's operations under one roof with a warehouse capable of housing up to 3,000 tires.
Half of the new technical center will consist of office space. The other half, in addition to the warehouse, will house labs for compound development, tire forensics and noise, vibration and harshness evaluation. It will also house test machines for rolling resistance and high-speed uniformity.
The center develops tires for the original equipment and consumer markets, conducts rubber compound and materials research, conducts evaluations for performance and noise/vibration/harshness, mold design, tire styling, and finite element analysis.
Fiat Chrysler Group L.L.C. (FCA) is one of the firm's major OE customers. Mr. Neumann said the firm has fitments on almost all of FCA's Dodge Ram vehicles with another one to be introduced in 2018.
The company has three tire plants — two in South Korea and another in China — and a fourth under construction in Czech Republic due online in 2018 with an annual capacity of more than 12 million units and more than 1,000 jobs.
Nexen projects its global tire capacity will increase to 44 million units next year from 39 million in 2015. That total will rise to 52 million by 2021 as the Czech factory scales up.