For the first time in over 70 years, Rubber City, once synonymous with tire manufacturing, has opened a new tire plant.
Bridgestone Americas unveiled its Advanced Tire Production Center set to become the company’s new headquarters for racing tire production during a grand opening ceremony on Wednesday morning. The factory will manufacture all Firestone Firehawk racing tires for the NTT IndyCar series, best known for the Indianapolis 500 race.
“The history of Akron and that of Bridgestone are undeniably linked. There is over 100 years of history and collaboration between Firestone Tire and Rubber and this great city,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said at the ceremony. “I commend Bridgestone for this level of commitment to our community.”
Firestone, which is owned by Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas, said it will become the sole supplier of tires for the Indy Lights series beginning in 2023. Those tires are all expected to be made in Akron.
Throughout the ceremony, Bridgestone officials highlighted the long heritage of tire manufacturing in Akron as well as their commitments to Akron, motorsport and sustainability. The new center uses 60% less energy than the company’s former racing tire factory.
“From engineers at all levels of the company, to management to the people cleaning the floors, everyone is really excited about this and staying in Akron,” said Cara Krstolic, director of tire engineering at racing at Bridgestone and hailing from Akron. “I really couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
After:The iconic Firestone sign prepares to light up on its new home atop Akron’s new tire factory
During the ceremony, Ohio Rep. Emilia Sykes shared the others’ excitement that Akron would once again be at the center of tire manufacturing and explained that her family originally moved to Akron to find jobs in the tire industry. Her great-grandfather worked at a Firestone factory, she said.
“My story is very similar to that of so many people in this community who have relied on this partnership between our community and Bridgestone Firestone to help sustain our community and provide well-paying jobs,” Sykes said.
“I am so thrilled 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.
Also in attendance were Bridgestone Chairman and CEO Paolo Ferrari, IndyCar Chairman Jay Frye and racing legend Mario Andretti.
The 80,000 square foot center will house 60 tire manufacturers and manufacturing professionals who will produce the racing tires as well as specialty tire prototypes to be tested and developed for racing and road applications.
The last large-scale tire plant in Akron was General Tire Plant 1, which closed in 1982. Firestone had previously ended passenger tire production here in 1981.
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 expected to be completed this fall.
Back on track:Akron to get new tire test track next year, Bridgestone Americas announces
“In the opening commentator statements, he said, ‘Leading edge tire manufacturing in Akron,'” Horrigan said. “We haven’t heard that in a long time, so thank you again for making Akron this hub and this home.”