'I really couldn't be more proud': Akron gets first new tire plant in more than 70 years

·3 min read

For the first time in more than 70 years, the Rubber City, once synonymous with tire building, opened a new tire plant.

Bridgestone Americas unveiled its Advanced Tire Production Center set to become the company’s new home for race tire production during a grand opening ceremony Wednesday morning. The plant will manufacture all Firestone Firehawk race tires for the NTT IndyCar series, best-known for the Indianapolis 500 race.

“Akron’s history and Bridgestone’s are undeniably intertwined. There are more than 100 years of history and collaboration between Firestone Tire and Rubber and this great city,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said during the ceremony. “I applaud Bridgestone for that level of commitment to our community.”

Firestone tire curing department workers Chris Krause, left, and Bonita Barnett, right, take a look at the Firestone Firehawk race tires on display during the grand opening ceremony for the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.
Firestone tire curing department workers Chris Krause, left, and Bonita Barnett, right, take a look at the Firestone Firehawk race tires on display during the grand opening ceremony for the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.

Firestone, which is owned by Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas, announced it would become the sole tire supplier for the Indy Lights Series starting in 2023. Those tires are all expected to be manufactured in Akron.

Bridgestone: 'Excited about staying in Akron'

Throughout the ceremony, Bridgestone officials emphasized the long legacy of tire manufacturing in Akron as well as their commitments to Akron, motorsports and sustainability. The new center uses 60% less energy than the company’s previous race tire manufacturing facility.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, left, shakes hands with Bridgestone Vice President of Communications Steve Kinkade as he takes the stage to speak about the new Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, left, shakes hands with Bridgestone Vice President of Communications Steve Kinkade as he takes the stage to speak about the new Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.

“The engineers all the way through the company from management all the way to the people that clean the floors, everybody’s really excited about this and staying in Akron,” said Cara Krstolic, Bridgestone’s director of race tire engineering and an Akron native. “I really couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Firestone in Akron: Iconic Firestone sign gets ready to light up on its new home atop Akron's new tire factory

During the ceremony, Ohio Rep. Emilia Sykes shared others’ excitement about Akron once again being at the hub of tire manufacturing and explained that her family originally moved to Akron to get jobs in the tire industry. Her great-grandfather worked in a Firestone factory, she said.

“My story is very similar to so many around this community who have relied on this partnership between our community and Bridgestone Firestone to help support our community and provide good paying jobs,” Sykes said.

“I'm really excited that they have chosen to reinvest in this area where their origins are and where so many of ours are, so that we can continue to thrive,” she added.

Bridgestone Americas President and CEO Paolo Ferrari speaks about the company's $21 million racing tire manufacturing facility during the grand opening ceremony for the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.
Bridgestone Americas President and CEO Paolo Ferrari speaks about the company's $21 million racing tire manufacturing facility during the grand opening ceremony for the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.

Also in attendance were Bridgestone President and CEO Paolo Ferrari, IndyCar President Jay Frye and race car legend Mario Andretti.

The 80,000-square-foot center will be home to 60 tire builders and manufacturing professionals who will produce the race tires as well as specialty, prototype tires to test and develop for racing and on-road applications.

The last full-scale tire factory in Akron was General Tire’s Plant 1, which shut down in 1982. Firestone previously ended passenger-tire production here in 1981.

Racing legend Mario Andretti smiles as he speaks about Firestone tires during the grand opening ceremony for the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.
Racing legend Mario Andretti smiles as he speaks about Firestone tires during the grand opening ceremony for the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.

The $21 million facility is part of a series of investments Bridgestone is making in Akron. A test track adjacent to the new center is scheduled to be completed this fall.

Back on track: Akron will get a new tire test track next year, Bridgestone Americas announces

“In the opening statements from the commentator, he said, ‘Advanced Tire Manufacturing in Akron,’ ” Horrigan said. “We haven't heard that in a long time, so thank you again for making Akron that hub and that home.”

Local officials join Bridgestone Americas President and CEO Paolo Ferrari, center, and other company leaders on stage for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.
Local officials join Bridgestone Americas President and CEO Paolo Ferrari, center, and other company leaders on stage for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron on Wednesday.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Bridgestone opens new Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron