TUPELO, Miss. — Goodyear said it intends to release inventory from its idled Cooper Tire plant in Tupelo in the coming days, a little more than two weeks after the facility was damaged by tornadoes on April 1.
According to a Goodyear spokesperson, the Akron-based tire maker is working tirelessly to keep product flowing to its customers, while the plant remains shut down and repairs continue.
"As teams (at the Tupelo plant) inspect stored inventory, we intend to begin releasing it to fill customer orders in the coming days," the spokesperson said in a statement. "We are leveraging the power of our broader manufacturing footprint and network inventory as we continue to execute our business continuity playbook to limit customer disruption."
The spokesperson also confirmed the company "fully intends to pay associates for the duration of the shutdown."
The 1,656 employees who work at the facility are not required to use vacation during that time, the spokesperson said. The plant is a non-union facility.
Local news reports said the facility suffered "considerable damage," as photos taken by a drone in the wake of the April 1 tragedy illustrate.
According to the (Northeast Mississippi) Daily Journal, at least 300 employees were working at the time the storm hit, and plant officials worked to get everyone to safety. The National Weather Service said in a warning issued for Northern Mississippi on April 1 that the storms were capable of producing EF-2 and stronger tornadoes.
While Goodyear gave no timetable for when the plant may resume production, it said "around-the-clock remediation efforts are progressing at the Tupelo plant."
Meanwhile, Goodyear said that its distribution center in Whiteland, Ind., which also was damaged by a tornado April 1, has resumed full operations.
The spokesperson said that "none of the inventory already stored at Whiteland was damaged, and we expect no significant impact to customer shipments there."
The Tupelo plant, opened in 1994 by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., is one of three Cooper tire factories in the U.S., and one of eight plants Goodyear operates in the U.S.
The plant manufactures passenger tires, and has a rated capacity of 37,000 tires per year— the largest of any Cooper tire plant in the U.S. — according to Tire Business' Global Tire Report.