Foreign-based tire makers grow to invest over $5 billion in Tennessee

The world’s biggest tire manufacturers are boosting their investments and tire output in Tennessee with nearly $1.2 billion of additional investments announced in just the past week.

The South Korean-based Hankook Tire & Technology Co., Ltd said Monday it will invest another $612 million in its Clarksville, Tennessee plant and add 397 more jobs over the next five years. The announcement came just four days after the Japanese-based tire maker Bridgestone said it plans to spend another $550 million to expand its Morrison, Tennessee plant and add another 380 jobs.

In Dayton, Tennessee, the Finland-based Nokian Tyre company continues to boost production at its $360 million tire production plant that opened in 2019 in the largest single investment in Nokian’s 34-year history.

Collectively, the foreign tire makers have invested more than $5 billion in Tennessee and will have more than 5,000 employees once the current expansions are complete.

“Global brands like Hankook Tire choose to invest in Tennessee because of our strong business climate, skilled workforce and central location,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in an announcement of the latest investment.

Hankook Tire said it plans to double its production of passenger car and light truck tires while simultaneously adding the company’s first U.S. production line of truck bus and radial tires to the Clarksville operations. Upon completion, Hankook Tire’s Tennessee plant will house the company’s production, warehousing, building, equipment and utilities.

The more than 2-million-square-foot facility is expected to begin tire production by the final quarter of 2024, reaching full capacity by early 2026.

“The investment in our Tennessee plant further demonstrates Hankook’s growing presence in the U.S. and commitment to serving our customers,” Sooil Lee, the CEO for Hankook Tire & Technology, said in a statement Monday. “Through a focus on sustainable construction and innovative manufacturing, the new phase of our Tennessee plant will provide an effective local-to-local supply chain to more effectively fulfill customer demand. “

Founded in 1941 and globally headquartered in South Korea, Hankook Tire has been a part of the U.S. tire market since 1981. In 2016, Hankook Tire America Corp. relocated its North American headquarters to Nashville, following the company’s decision to locate a manufacturing facility in Clarksville.

Bridgestone Americas made Nashville its home in 1992 when the company moved from Akron, Ohio, following Bridgestone’s merger with Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. Bridgestone, the world’s largest tire manufacturer, operates production plants in Tennessee in La Vergne,and Morrison.

Nokian Tyre opened its Dayton plant three years ago and the $360 million factory in Rhea County has grown since to more than 350 employees. The Finnish tire maker plans to make about 1.5 million tires this year, up from about 1 million tires made at the Dayton plant last year, company officials said.

Wes Boling, senior communications manager for Nokian Tyre in Dayton, said in a telephone interview Monday that Nokian hopes to boost its tire output up to 4 million units a year by 2024 and will add more employees over time to reach that target.

The new U.S. tire plants have taken on new production urgency this year as Nokian, Bridgestone and other tire makers adjust to export restrictions placed by the European Union and Western allies on Russian-made goods. Both Nokian and Bridgestone had operated tire production plants in Russia but have suspended such operations after the Russian invasion in the Ukraine.

The foreign-based tire makers are among more than 1,000 companies headquartered in other countries around the globe that have collectively invested nearly $41 billion in capital and employ more than 156,000 Tennesseans.

In 2021, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development said it received 33 project commitments from foreign-owned businesses, resulting in 4,889 job commitments and $892 million in capital investment.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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