BY MARY GARRISON
Since breaking ground Sept. 23 in Clay County, Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi (YTMM) plant construction has been rapidly picking up momentum. However, parent establishment Yokohama Rubber Company goals have remained largely the same since project inception, according to YTMM President Tadaharu Yamamoto.
Yamamoto addressed West Point Rotarians Thursday at the Ritz Theater, outlining the companyâ€™s ambitions both in Mississippi and around the world, not the least of which is marked growth. Presently, Yamamoto said Yokohama is the eighth largest tire company in the world and sixth largest in the U.S. Yokohama executives, however, hope to see an increase in the ranks by the companyâ€™s centennial in 2017, and they plan to do it by tapping into a high-demand U.S. market, Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto said in 2013, Americans purchased some 201.6 million in passenger car tires, up considerably from the 192 million sold in 2012. Similarly, U.S. residents purchased 28.3 million light to mid weight truck tires in the same year. Yokohama tires accounted for about 4 percent of those sold in the U.S. By 2017, the company plans to bump that number up to 10 percent. Thus, the construction of a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in West Point, Yamamoto said, could be crucial.
â€śThe (U.S.) market is so huge,â€ť Yamamoto said. â€ś(The) West Point plant is so important for Yokohama to grow up business in (the) U.S. â€¦ Weâ€™re trying to be good citizens in this community. Our success will be success for the community.â€ť
That success is already beginning, according to Yamamoto. Thus far, the company has hired about 50 employees for the initial phase of what could be a four-phase project employing up to 500 workers per phase. Upon completion in October 2015, the $300 million phase one facility will span about 1 million square-feet and produce about 3,000 units (tires) daily on Barton Ferry Road just outside West Point. As of Thursday, there were 18 different positions the company hoped to fill Yamamoto said, including spots for engineers and line supervisors.
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