After Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich established his rubber company in Akron in 1870 — the first large rubber business established in the city, according to historian Dave Lieberth's accounts — Akron's labor pool, abundant water, railways and the Ohio & Erie Canal soon lured others to base their companies there. Soon, other industrialists followed suit, and Akron was home to the Big Four tiremakers: Goodyear, Firestone, B.F. Goodrich and General Tire.
But by the mid-1950s, companies began expanding their manufacturing to other parts of the country. And when radial tires became the dominant choice in the market — replacing bias-ply tires — by the mid-1970s, tiremakers saw the need for big changes at their plants. With high price tags to convert old, multi-level bias plants to radial production, businesses found it cheaper to build new single-level factories. Companies were building plants in Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
By the 1980s and '90s, a wave of consolidation and the entrance of foreign players turned tire making into a global industry and moved headquarters and operations away from Akron. Firestone was bought by Bridgestone and took its headquarters to Nashville, Tenn.
General Tire was acquired by Continental A.G., which pulled up stakes for Charlotte, N.C.
B.F. Goodrich left the tire making business, combining its operations with Uniroyal, which in turn was bought by Groupe Michelin.
Mohawk Rubber Co, became part of Tokyo-based Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.
That leaves Goodyear as the lone major tire company still headquartered in Akron. Goodyear in 2013 opened its new headquarter campus on Akron's east side, where it employs about 3,000. Goodyear still makes its race tires at a plant in Akron, too.