By LOU WILIN
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. wants to invest $140 million to modernize its nonunion plant in Tupelo, Miss., guaranteeing to keep at least 1,300 workers for the next decade. It now employs 1,600 in Tupelo.
But the unionized Findlay factory need not worry, said Rod Nelson, president of United Steel Workers of America Local 207L. The Findlay plant gets its share of investment and will continue to do so, he said. It has about 900 unionized workers.
“I’m very confident Cooper will invest in our plant in the future,” Nelson said. “We have got a lot of (investment) going on in our plant and to come in the future.”
Cooper Tire several years ago said tire industry manufacturing capacity was being moved from high-cost countries like the United States to low-cost countries like China. It said its high-cost plants were in Findlay; Melksham, England; Texarkana, Ark.; Tupelo; and Albany, Ga. Cooper closed the Albany plant in 2009 to cut costs.
Nelson said the Findlay factory does not seem to get as much investment as others.
“We’re probably getting less than Texarkana and Tupelo, but we welcome whatever we can get,” he said.
The Texarkana factory, which employs about 1,100, also is unionized. The plant makes tires for light trucks, sport utility vehicles and cars. The Tupelo plant makes car tires.
The Findlay factory produces tires for light trucks and sport utility vehicles.
Competitors will be building four new tire plants in southern states in the next several years, and another U.S. plant will be expanded, Nelson said. Four factories also will be built in Indonesia and Thailand in the next several years, Nelson said. All of them will be more efficient than the 1914 Findlay plant, the nation’s oldest tire plant.
The Lee County (Miss.) Board of Supervisors has approved $18 million in property tax cuts over 10 years for Cooper Tire’s proposed Tupelo expansion. The proposal calls for the state of Mississippi to contribute $20 million in bond money: $8 million the first year and $6 million in each of the second and third years.
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