By Dennis Seid
WEST POINT – Yokohama Tire Corp. in September broke ground on its $300 million manufacturing plant near West Point, promising to initially employ 500.
It is the Japanese tiremaker’s first ground-up facility in the U.S., and the company hopes to eventually invest up to $1 billion and employ 2,000.
The West Point plant – which officially is called Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi, will produce up to 1 million truck tires a year during its first phase.
With the additional expansions, the plant could build as many as 4 million tires a year.
The West Point facility will be Yokohama’s fourth manufacturing plant dedicated to truck and bus tires worldwide. The company has two in Japan and one in Thailand.
Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said talks with Yokohama went quickly over a relatively compressed time period for a project of this magnitude.
Some 3,000 counties across the country were vying for the project, but state officials were told only the finalists would be invited to visit the company’s headquarters in Japan.
“I visited Japan three times in six months, and while I don’t know how many finalists there were, we got our invitation to visit in February,” Christensen said.
Other sites in Mississippi were reviewed but passed over, and Yokohama’s site selection team zeroed-in on the 500-acre Prairie Belt Power Site.
Mississippi is providing a total of $130 million in incentives for Yokohama, $70 million of which will be used for the first phase of the project.
Before the groundbreaking ceremony YTMM President Tadaharu Yamamoto announced a $500,000 gift to East Mississippi Community College and Mississippi State University.
The institutions will split the money evenly, and will use it for workforce training purposes.