By Dennis Seid
WEST POINT – Yokohama Tire Corp. will break ground this morning on a $300 million commercial tire plant.
But on Sunday, company officials, joined by Missississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and other state and local leaders, celebrated another special occasion.
At the Ritz Theater in downtown West Point, newly named Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi President Tadaharu Yamamoto announced a $500,000 gift to East Mississippi Community College and Mississippi State University.
“One of the best ways to be a good neighbor is to get involved with your community, and $500,000 will get you involved,” Bryant said, drawing laughter from the audience.
The institutions will split the money evenly, and will use it for workforce training purposes.
“We know there are a lot of deserving Mississippians,” Yamamoto said, adding that the company wanted to show its appreciation for the hospitality it had received. “We also know how important education is to economic development.”
EMCC President Rick Young said the money would be used “toward developing the skills necessary to be successful” in an advanced manufacturing setting such as Yokohama’s.
At Mississippi State, President Mark Keenum said he would consult with university leaders as well as Yokohama leaders to determine the best use for the money.
“My number one priority when it comes to gifts is scholarships for students and also faculty support, but we want to be sure we’re doing what’s best for Yokohama. … We want to help them be successful, and the more successful they are, the more Mississippians they’ll hire,” he said.
Yokohama will build commercial truck tires in the initial phase of the project, which will employ 500 and open in about two years.
The company expects three more expansions over the next 10 years, adding 500 employees per phase. Yokohama’s total investment is expected to reach $1 billion.
The Mississippi Legislature approved $70 million in incentives for the initial project and total bonding capacity up to $130 million for future expansions. Included in the state aid was funding to buy the land for the facility, site preparation, infrastructure improvements and workforce training.
Yokohama’s West Point plant is the company’s first U.S. facility to be built from the ground up, and is located on a 500-acre site.
Yokohama also has operations in Salem, Va., where the company manufactures consumer passenger car and light truck tires.