Triangle Tyre Co. will bring 800 jobs over five years to rural Edgecombe County to work in its first manufacturing plants in the United States, after $152 million in state and local financial enticements were announced on Tuesday.
The company, based in China, will receive $66 million in state incentives and $86 million from Edgecombe County.
Triangle Tyre says it will invest $580 million in two tire plants that will be located at the 1,449-acre Kingsboro megasite, which was created to lure a large manufacturer to the county. Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration calls it the largest investment by a manufacturer ever in rural North Carolina.
Cooper publicly announced the deal at Edgecombe Community College in Tarboro after a state committee approved the grants. The company said incentives of that size were crucial to its decision to locate in North Carolina, according to the state commerce department.
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“Triangle Tyre chose North Carolina for its first-ever manufacturing center outside of China because they know our workers share their commitment to innovation, education and excellence,” the Democratic governor said. “I’m excited to see these 800 skilled manufacturing jobs go to Eastern North Carolina where I grew up and raised my family, a place where people have an unshakeable dedication to getting the job done.”
Republican Sen. Rick Horner of neighboring Wilson County, which is home to Bridgestone Americas, welcomed the project, and credited the GOP economic agenda and political leaders working together.
“Today’s announcement is a terrific Christmas present for our state, and particularly for eastern North Carolina,” Horner said in a statement.
Edgecombe County’s unemployment was 6.9 percent in October, compared with the statewide rate of 4.1 percent.
‘Blossom with beautiful flowers’
The two plants will be built in phases. The first, which will make tires for passenger vehicles, will begin construction in the second half of 2019 and be fully operational by 2020. The second plant, which will make tires for commercial vehicles, should be fully operational in 2022. The two plants are expected to produce 6 million tires annually.
The Edgecombe County operation is expected to pay an average annual wage of $56,450; the county average is $32,642.
The manufacturer is part of Triangle Tire USA, which is based in Franklin, Tenn., and was established in 2016 to intensify the Chinese company’s efforts in the U.S. market. Triangle Tire USA is part of Triangle Tyre Co., a global firm based in Weihai, China. It is a subsidiary of Triangle Group Co.
“Triangle Tyre strongly believes that the project will blossom with beautiful flowers and bear the most abundant fruits in the U.S., a developed nation on wheels,” Ding Yuhua, chairman of Triangle Group and Triangle Tyre, said in a statement the company released. “We will give back the fruits to the people of North Carolina with our utmost sincerity.”
Triangle Tyre’s decision comes six years after the state lost a $500 million Continental Tire project in Brunswick County amid political fingerpointing. It would have brought more than 1,300 jobs to an economically depressed area just west of Wilmington.
The company will receive state and local incentives if it meets its hiring and investment goals. The state approved a $20.1 million job development grant, spread over 12 years, and a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund for up to $16 million. The One Fund money requires a matching grant from local governments. The other incentives will come in the form of improving access to the site and job training and involve the Department of Transportation and the N.C. Railroad, Golden LEAF and the state community college system.
More jobs on the way?
Triangle Tyre’s announcement follows a decision last week by Linamar Forgings Carolina, an auto parts manufacturer, to expand in Wilson County and add 31 jobs.
The announcements have heightened speculation that North Carolina is lining up to win a massive Toyota-Mazda joint manufacturing project that would create up to 4,000 jobs and bring a $1.6 billion investment to the state.
North Carolina and Alabama have been mentioned as the two likely finalists for the project.
Under the joint venture, Mazda plans to make new crossover vehicles while Toyota intends to make Corollas, both for the North American market.
The Kingsboro megasite where Triangle Tyre is going was once considered a likely spot for the Toyota-Mazda plant. It is one of four locations the state has designated as having enough land, access to roads and utilities, and workers to attract the largest of projects. The megasite in Randolph County near Greensboro is now most often mentioned as the likely site for the Toyota-Mazda operation in North Carolina.
North Carolina has tried to win an automaker for decades – the most recent talks were reported to be with Volvo in 2015. Typically, the state has been outbid in incentives packages. The closest it appears to have ever come to winning an auto plant was in 1993, when it was in talks with Mercedes-Benz to build a factory near Mebane. But Mercedes went to Alabama instead.
North Carolina has, however, developed an auto industry over the past 20 years, which includes Freightliner trucks and Thomas Built buses, and companies that make parts and supplies. There are close to 300 auto manufacturing enterprises in the state, according to the state Department of Commerce, which employ thousands. Among those is AW North Carolina, one of the Triangle’s largest manufacturers, which makes automatic transmissions for Toyota vehicles at its Durham facility.
Tire makers stepping up their U.S. game
There has been a recent infusion of foreign tire makers into the Southeast.
▪ Wanli Tire of China plans to build a plant in South Carolina and hire 1,200 employees. In June, state officials approved a $40.5 million incentive package.
▪ Sentury Tire of China announced in September it wants to build a manufacturing plant and headquarters in an Atlanta suburb.
▪ Giti Tire, based in Singapore, has new facilities in South Carolina, and Hankook Tire, a South Korean firm, has new operations in Tennessee.
▪ The trade industry publication Rubber and Plastics News reports Finnish company Nokian Tires plans a factory in Tennessee. The publication also reports Wanli is looking for an additional plant somewhere in the United States.
Tire companies already in North Carolina also are expanding. Bridgestone Americas in January announced it would invest $180 million over the next decade in its passenger tire plant in Wilson. Bridgestone also announced a five-year, $164 million expansion in January 2016.
This week, analytical firm Market Research Future said tire sales are strong worldwide, due to higher incomes of consumers, the fact that cars and trucks are lasting longer, advanced technology and intense competition among manufacturers, whose products are generally similar.