Still rollin’

What’s been good for Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. has always been good for our region. But reaching a major milestone like a 100-year birthday doesn’t happen without bumps in the road.
There have been people trying to write a death warrant for Cooper, despite its long history of producing high-quality tires and delivering steady dividends for its shareholders. It’s true, today’s Cooper isn’t the same Cooper as the Brewer, Gorr, Fitzgerald and Rooney years.
But the tire business is very different now than it was then. Cooper is now an established player in the global marketplace and its management must have a vision well beyond Findlay, Ohio.
No doubt, it’s been a bumpy couple of years.
A company-ordered lock-out over three months in 2011 and 2012 strained the relationship between management and employees and the union, and led many longtime workers to the door. And last year’s proposed buyout of Cooper by India-based Apollo Tyres, a deal that eventually went sour, was more than just a distraction.
A group of Cooper retirees were among those who publicly rallied against the acquisition.
Yet, Cooper has managed to remain a viable tiremaker. And in an announcement made Thursday at the company’s anniversary celebration, it said a $40 million global technology center, which had been put on hold when the Apollo deal was unfolding, is back on track and will be built on the second floor of its tech center on Summit Street.
That news is important to this community for several reasons. It shows Cooper’s commitment to keeping its headquarters in Findlay for at least the immediate future, but also because of the jobs it will create.
About 40 employees, most of them engineers, scientists and researchers, will be hired at the center during the next three years. Those will be good-paying jobs which will further strengthen the Hancock County economy.
On Thursday, Cooper CEO Roy Armes gave credit where credit is due: to Cooper workers, past and present, who are responsible for making millions of tires which can now be found in every corner of the world.
Cooper is now the fourth-largest tire manufacturer in the United States, 11th largest in the world, and employs 13,000 at manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities in 11 countries.
That’s a stretch from 1914, when John F. Schaefer and Claude E. Hart purchased M and M Manufacturing Co. in Akron, and later The Giant Tire & Rubber Co., also of Akron, and moved their business to Findlay.
No, Cooper will never be like it used to be, as some will always lament. But there are strong indications that, despite its age, there will be good days ahead. Congratulations to a company that has proven its staying power, and appears positioned for the future.

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