By LOU WILIN
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. celebrated its 100th anniversary Thursday with the news it will resume plans to locate a $40 million global technology center in Findlay and add 40 high-quality jobs.
“We’re really, really happy about being able to reinstitute that and get that going again,” said Roy Armes, Cooper Tire chief executive officer.
The state has “reconfirmed” a $2.8 million grant to help Cooper locate its first worldwide technology center on the second floor of its existing regional technical center on the west side of Summit Street, he said.
The state controlling board on Monday also is expected to approve a $400,000 grant to Findlay for some intersection improvements related to Cooper Tire’s expansion. The Sandusky Street-Western Avenue intersection reportedly could get a traffic signal, and the Sixth Street-Blanchard Street intersection could get some left-turn lanes.
Cooper Tire’s plans for the global technology center were announced, and the grant initially awarded, early in 2013. It all was put on hold when Apollo Tyres of India made a bid last June to buy Cooper Tire.
That proposed deal fizzled out by year-end.
It is unclear when the global technology center will be completed. Armes’ announcement, which came at an employee and retiree celebration of the company’s 100th anniversary, was a surprise.
When the technology center plans were announced in February 2013, it was supposed to be completed by December 2013.
Hiring of the 40 workers was to occur over three years. Cooper will be hiring engineers, scientists, researchers, technicians and technical managers with education in mechanical or chemical engineering, polymer science and computer modeling.
Those jobs are what is “most significant” about the technology center, said Findlay-Hancock County Alliance Economic Development Director Tony Iriti.
Cooper could have chosen to send the new jobs and technology center somewhere else. It has regional technical centers in Melksham, England, and Shanghai, China.
The state grant helped sway Cooper toward Findlay. Proximity to the Findlay factory and the existing regional technical center also influenced Cooper’s decision, said Anne Roman, vice president of communications and public affairs for Cooper.
How does a global technology center differ from a technical center?
“The global technology center will drive the new and leading technology, and that technology will be shared with the regional (technical centers) to implement the technology to manufacture the tire,” Roman said.
Besides reporting that the technology center plans are still alive, Armes praised Cooper Tire workers past and present for enabling the company to succeed for 100 years.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, visited the Cooper Tire offices and joined the celebration.
“Cooper has been a great contributor to Hancock County … really our entire state for a long time,” Portman said. “One hundred years ago, we weren’t even into World War I yet. It’s a long time ago and yet here they are, still providing jobs, still able to compete globally in a really tough market.”
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