Tupelo Cooper Tire plant will stay open

Published 2:55 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

Tupelo and state officials are praising a decision by Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. to keep open its northeast Mississippi plant.

Cooper Tire said Wednesday it will close its plant in Albany, Ga., the result of a capacity study of its four plants.

The Findlay, Ohio-based company will keep open plants in Tupelo; Findlay; and Texarkana, Ark.

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In Tupelo, local and state officials came up with more than $30 million in incentives to keep the plant running.

Gov. Haley Barbour said in a statement that state and local officials worked aggressively to convince Cooper Tire to keep the Tupelo plant open.

“At a time when the economy is punctuated by bad news I am very pleased with the good news that Cooper Tires had made the decision to keep its Tupelo plant open. Part of our economic development strategy is to work aggressively with existing businesses to retain jobs and help create new jobs.

“This is a case where Mississippi’s team was able to provide a competitive solution that will work to the benefit of the entire state, the company and certainly its dedicated employees in northeast Mississippi,” Barbour said.

“Christmas has come early,” Community Development Foundation Director President and CEO David Rumbarger said Wednesday at a news conference in Tupelo.

Ron Roof, acting manager of the Tupelo plant, said local workers have shown support for Cooper and were willing to help the company that had provided for them.

“And the Tupelo community showed tremendous support for our company with the financial package that was offered,” Roof said.

Workers were told in October that the company was facing higher costs and shrinking demand, and that Cooper had to make a dramatic cut. The company embarked on a study of each of its plants while the factories and their communities worked to provide Cooper with reasons to keep operating.

Texarkana has 1,400 workers, Findlay has 1,100 and Tupelo has 1,200. The Albany plant has 1,400 workers.

The company told workers that the three remaining plants would move to around-the-clock production, seven days a week and that staff may be added. The company says it will take 12 months to close the Albany factory.

Cooper Tire said it would save between $75 million and $80 million each year after the closing. Cooper said some of the savings would be realized in 2009 as production moves to the three remaining plants.