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German tire maker plans 1,700 jobs in Sumter County

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By James T. Hammond
Published Oct. 6, 2011

Continental Tire North America, which has its headquarters in Fort Mill said today it plans to invest more than $500 million in a Sumter County tire manufacturing plant that will employ around 1,700 workers when the new facility begins operations in 2017.

Increased demand in United States and the Americas is the driving force behind the company’s investment, it said in a written statement. Eighty positions will be added to the company’s Lancaster County headquarters, which the company plans to expand.

Continental will have the capacity to produce 5 million passenger and light truck tires once the first phase is in full production in 2017. The second phase will bring capacity to 8 million tires by 2021.

The company selected a green-field site off U.S. Highway 521 in Sumter County.

The logistics advantages in locating near the East Coast likely played an important role in attracting Continental and Bridgestone to invest here.

"I think the critical thing in a lot of respects is our ports,” said Jim Morton, a former senior executive with Michelin North America. “You’re bringing in natural rubber, carbon black, chemicals and then you are going to ship the tires."

The North American subsidiary of Germany’s Continental Corp. had sales of more than $34 billion worldwide in 2010, and employed 148,228 workers in 46 countries.

“This important announcement is part of Continental’s growth strategy worldwide and, especially in this case, for the Americas’ market,” said Nikolai Setzer, member of Continental’s executive board and head of Continental’s global tire business. “Increasing demand for Continental and General brand passenger and light truck tires in the U.S., as well as the improved business results for CTA, has made this significant investment possible."

Continental Tire entered the North American tire market when it acquired General Tire in 1987, creating Continental Tire of North America.

The North American tire headquarters is in Fort Mill, S.C. In 2009, the company opened its headquarters in northern Lancaster County, a new state-of-the-art, $11 million facility comprising a 75,000 square foot building on 11.5 acres. The facility employed 375 people at the time it opened.

According to the company’s website, Continental was founded in Hanover, Germany, in 1871 as the stock corporation to make soft rubber products, rubberized fabrics, and solid tires for carriages and bicycles.

In 1904 Continental became the first company in the world to develop grooved tires for automobiles. In 1905 Continental began producing rivet anti-skid tires, similar to the later studded tires, and three years later invented the detachable wheel rim for touring cars.

In the late 1920s, the company merged with major companies in the rubber industry to form Continental Gummi-Werke AG.

In 1951, Continental began to make steel cord conveyor belts. In 1955, the company was the first to develop air springs for trucks and buses. Series production of belted tires began in 1960. Around 30 years later Continental brought the first environmentally friendly tires for passenger cars onto the market.

In 1995 the Automotive Systems division was established. Today, Continental ranks among the top 5 automotive suppliers worldwide and holds the No. 2 spot in Europe.

As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection.

Continental Tire's products include passenger and light truck tires. It develops and manufactures tires for compact, medium-size, and full-size passenger cars, as well as for SUVs, vans, motorcycles, and bicycles. Commercial vehicle tires include a range of truck, bus, industrial, and off-road tires for diverse service areas and applications.

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