Korean firm

Korean tire maker looking at SC for US plant

krupon@thestate.comSeptember 3, 2013 

FILE PHOTOGRAPH/THE STATE

South Korean tire maker Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. has South Carolina on its short list for a U.S. manufacturing plant.

“We are in talks with three U.S. states – Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia – to build a plant, and we will decide the final site by the end of this year,” Hankook chief executive Cho Hyun-shick said at a press conference in Seoul, according to a Reuters report.

The plant, the company’s first in the United States, would produce between 5 million and 10 million tires a year, the report said. Compared to tire-making industry peers in South Carolina, that could mean more than 1,000 jobs. Financial details were not disclosed, the report said.

A state Department of Commerce spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on “any company projects that Commerce may or may not be involved with.”

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who has touted her role as a jobs creator, last week had eight economic-development meetings or phone calls, according to her office.

South Carolina would be a natural fit for the tire maker, said S.C. Manufacturers Alliance president and CEO Lewis Gossett, who added he has no knowledge of negotiations between the state and Hankook.

“We have shown time and time again that we’re willing to do the kinds of things that are necessary to make this environment good for manufacturers,” Gossett said, including training workers for the tire-making process.

Starting in 2011, a trio of announcements by major tire manufacturers who located plants in the state made a “dramatic” statement about the ability of South Carolina to support such operations, he said.

Bridgestone is investing $1.2 billion to expand its Aiken County operations and hire 850 more workers – the biggest single corporate investment in state history.

Continental Tire broke ground last year on a $500 million plant in Sumter County that promises 1,600 new jobs by 2021.

And Michelin announced last year that it would expand its Earthmover tire plant in Lexington County and build a plant to make the 4-ton tires for heavy construction equipment in Anderson County for a combined $1 billion in investment, bringing more than 750 new jobs.

South Carolina is the No. 1 tire exporter in the United States and is on track to unseat Oklahoma as the top tire producer in the nation.

“South Carolina has a good reputation for producing (tires),” Gossett said. “In general, it’s a good place for those kind of companies.”

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