Opelika BFGoodrich plant to close

OPELIKA, AL (WSFA) - The BFGoodrich plant in Opelika will shut down in response to an "unprecedented drop in market demand," according to company officials.  The plant's owner, Michelin North America, made the announcement Monday that it would shutter its Lee County location and relocate operations to other plants in Alabama and Indiana. The final day of operations is expected no later than October 31, 2009.

"The decision comes in the wake of the continuing economic crisis as consumers are driving fewer miles, purchasing fewer vehicles and delaying tire replacement purchases," the company said in a news release. "The dramatic drop in market demand has created significant overcapacity in the North American tire markets that Michelin does not expect to rebound in the near term. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, North American tire sales volume is expected to decline for the second year in a row in 2009."

"Business decisions that directly impact the lives of our employees are extraordinarily difficult," said Dick Wilkerson, chairman and president of Michelin North America. "This action is necessary, however, for the long-term health and competitiveness of Michelin North America. In this crisis, there is no more business as usual."

The Opelika plant currently employs approximately 1,000 wage and salaried workers. Michelin will consolidate production at the BFGoodrich Tire Manufacturing facilities in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Ft. Wayne, Ind.

"The company will work with appropriate government agencies, communities, and the United Steel Workers union to help make the transition for all affected employees as smooth as possible, including providing separation pay and other benefits," officials said.

Governor Bob Riley has directed the Governor's Office of Workforce Development to deploy its Dislocated Worker Unit Rapid Response Team to Lee County to assist the workers who are affected by the plant's closing. Governor Riley's office says the team will soon begin scheduling meetings with plant employees.

"Recognizing that the BFGoodrich Opelika facility is a significant part of the local economy, Michelin North America is establishing a Michelin Development Program to assist in the creation of new jobs from diverse industries within the community." Details will be announced in the coming weeks.

WSFA 12 News will have more information at 5, 6 and 10pm.