Michelin to add plant in Upstate

Michelin North America President Pete Selleck said the company will import raw materials and export finished tires through the Port of Charleston to support its new investments in Lexington and Anderson counties.

GREENVILLE — Michelin announced plans Tuesday to break ground on a new plant in Anderson County that could create 500 jobs making giant tires for use on heavy equipment in mines, quarries and construction sites.

The company plans to spend $750 million on the new plant and expanding a plant in Lexington that already makes the tires. Demand for the 12-foot tall, 5-ton Earthmover tires has increased more than 20 percent since 2009, Michelin North America Chairman Pete Selleck said.

“Nearly every Earthmover tire is sold before it is produced,” Selleck said.

The announcement, combined with two other companies announcing large tire plants in the state in the past seven months, means by next year, South Carolina will make more tires than any other state in the country, Gov. Nikki Haley said.

Selleck and other Michelin executives joined Haley and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for the announcement Tuesday at the French tire company’s North American headquarters in Greenville.

More than a third of Michelin’s 22,000 North American employees work in South Carolina. The tire maker built its first American plant in South Carolina in 1973, and the new Anderson County plant will be its ninth facility in the state.

The plant will be located in Starr, next to an existing Michelin rubber processing plant. Michelin hopes to roll the first tire off the line next year and have the plant running at full capacity by 2015.

The state offered the company $9.1 million in grants for infrastructure improvements at the site, said Amy Love, spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Commerce.

The announcement also doubled as a celebration of Michelin’s four decades of making tires in South Carolina. With the latest move, the company has invested $5 billion in the state. Graham recalled how he was a junior in high school helping out carpenters when the company built its first plant in Sandy Springs in Anderson County.

“I can remember being on site, trying to figure out what we were going to do at Michelin, and 40 years later now I know — we were going to change South Carolina,” said Graham, R-S.C. “You’re the first major company that saw in South Carolina something people had not seen before.”

More companies came to South Carolina’s Upstate after Michelin, making the area along Interstate 85 a center for manufacturing.

That reputation was cemented when BMW came to Greer in 1993.

Michelin likes the state because of its low tax base, fairly low wages, small percent of unions and backing from politicians, company officials said. Selleck said the company could have built the plant in other places, including Brazil and India.

“The work ethic of people here in South Carolina is remarkable,” Selleck said. “They work hard, they are dedicated, they are skilled, they are talented, and they are totally committed to the company.”

And in the 21st century, Michelin is helping South Carolina become the nation’s tire king as other tire companies are coming or expanding their operations in the state.

In September, Bridgestone Americas said it would spend $1.2 billion and bring 850 jobs to Aiken County by building a new tire plant and expanding an existing facility.

In October, Continental Tire announced a new $500 million plant in Sumter County that would employ 1,700 workers when finished at the end of the decade.

The governor said Michelin wasn’t bothered by the competition.

“Rather than getting angry, or rather than saying no, they graciously welcomed the fact that the more business we have in South Carolina, the better,” Haley said.

The Post and Courier contributed to this report.