By DENNIS SEID / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Since producing its first tire in December 1984, the Cooper Tire amp& Rubber Co. plant in Tupelo has churned out at least 285 million more, helping it earn a special place in the company’s history.
On Monday, company leaders, joined by some plant employees and area officials, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the plant’s dedication.
“Twenty-five years is a milestone,” said John Bodart, the Findlay, Ohio-based company’s vice president of manufacturing. “But by no means is this the end of the road. We’re very excited about the future of Tupelo. It’s been a key part of our strategy and we think it will continue. We look forward to the next 25 years.”
Pat Jodon, the plant manager, said the anniversary “is a very special occasion for Cooper Tire. We couldn’t be more proud of our employees, both past and present, here in Tupelo. … quality tires made by quality people is a mantra that the Tupelo plant believes strongly in, and we recognize that the achievement of this goal is not possible without the tremendous work force we are blessed with or the tremendous support we receive.”
At more than 2 million square feet, the Tupelo plant is Cooper Tire’s largest North American facility. The latest expansion – the plant’s 17th – adds 32,000 square feet to the sprawling facility, which employs more than 1,300 workers.
Cooper Tire has invested more than $100 million in the expansions.
And, noted Bodart, the Tupelo plant “makes more tires per day than any of our other North American plants and is our largest production facility.”
Cooper Tire provides replacement tires to the automotive market, a very competitive industry that appears to be improving after a rough couple of years.
Last month, the company reported net income of $44 million for the second quarter, reversing a $13 million loss from a year earlier. Sales for the quarter rose 27 percent to $804 million. Sales for the first six months of the year were $1.6 billion, compared to $1.2 billion for the same period a year earlier.
Bodart said that the economy seems to be improving and the worst could be over.
“I hope so,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in business since the low part of the last 12 to 18 months. We believe that’s driven by the market going up as well as the products we’re offering. I think we’ve seen the worst, and things are improving.”
Bodart said the Tupelo plant has an important role to play as Cooper Tire sells its tires worldwide.
“We’re counting on this plant and we’re very proud of that,” he said.