Yokohama Grand Opening

William B. Carroll

It was all smiles Monday morning as Yokohama Tire Company Mississippi celebrated the grand opening of its $300 million West Point plant.
No one had a bigger smile than Yokohama Rubber President Hikomitsu Noji.
“We had people say it was the best day ever,” Noji said in reference to the April 29, 2013 agreement which brought the Yokohama Tire Company to Mississippi.
Noji told an audience of some 200 local, state and Japanese officials that Phase I of the Yokohama project is now complete, and the facility has started to produce commercial truck tires.
Noji said that his industry is in a position for solid growth and the West Point plant would be the first step in having a footprint in the U.S. for future development. The West Point plant is the company’s first U.S. based plant.
Noji referred to the combination of Yokohama and the state of Mississippi as a “marriage” and said that the birth of the West Point plant was in many ways similar to the birth of a child.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant followed up Noji’s comment by saying, “If this is the first child, I hope there are three more,” in reference to Yokohama’s plans for three more phases beyond the nearly one million square foot building north of West Point. If the final three phases are built, the company would invest a total of $1.2 billion and hire 2,000 employees.
Bryant touted the fact that his own vehicle now has Yokohama tires and focused his portion of Monday morning’s ceremony on the contributions of Japanese companies including Nissan and Toyota to the economy of Mississippi.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves also spoke during the presentation, and said that throughout his travels in the state, during his recent election campaign, people ask him the same question: “Why do so many projects go to the Golden Triangle.”
Reeves said it wasn’t because of anyone in the room, but because of the men and women who live in the region and the quality of the workforce.
Reeves said that he and the legislature took one day to approve the incentive package for the Yokohama plant, stating that the project met the legislatures goal of long-term benefits outweighing short-term costs.
Mississippi spent $70 million to incentivize the first phase, along with $12 million by West Point and Clay County. Total state and local incentives, including tax breaks, could total more than $330 million for all four phases.
Tadaharu Yamamoto, President of Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi said the plant has hired 260 of the promised 500 employees and that the first tire officially came off of the assembly line in April of this year.
“We are now ready for mass production,” Yamamoto said. “This was one of Yokohama’s fastest built plants. We completed it in just under two years. I attribute that to the workforce here in Mississippi.”
Yamamoto also announced that YTMM’s new office building would be complete by the end of 2016.
During the grand opening event, media and invited guests were allowed to take a tour of the new facility.
The facility is a state of the art facility that uses some of the newest technological advances. One of those advances are the plant’s numerous automated guided vehicles (ADV).
The ADVs are effectively robotic units that utilize a system of reflectors placed throughout the plant to move large items throughout the facility. According to Yokohama staff, these ADVs have fewer recorded safety incidents than human forklift operators.
The Yokohama plant is anticipated to produce over one million commercial truck tires, which Yamamoto said should occur in a couple of years.
The nearly one million square foot facility is located on 570 acres of land in north Clay County. With phase one complete, the pads for each of the possible following three phases are already shovel ready, although Yokohama did not provide a timeline for when or if the other phases will be completed.

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