Layoffs Planned at Opelika Michelin/BFGoodrich Tire Plant

OPELIKA, Ala.  -- Up to 40 percent of the work force at the Michelin/BFGoodrich tire factory in Opelika could be laid off by October this year, putting 540 people out of work.

The Opelika-Auburn News reports company officials told employees yesterday about the cuts, which were attributed to a shrinking but competitive tire market. The factory employs a total of 1,356 people.  The plant was established according to Michelin in 1963

The newspaper reported today that some jobs will be eliminated through retirements and attrition. However, most cuts will require layoffs. The company already plans to cut costs by closing its factory in Ontario, Canada on July 22nd.

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller(overseas at the moment) said through a statement that he has been in contact with Fred Blackwell of Michelin/B.F. Goodrich and issued the following response to the projected lay-offs:

"I certainly regret the loss of these jobs at our B.F. Goodrich plant.  Apparently this is an industry issue that has affected other manufacturers, including Bridgestone, Firestone and others.  We are fortunate that we have an extremely low unemployment rate and a large number of new jobs coming on line, creating demand for skilled labor.  I believe many of these fine Goodrich employees affected by this lay-off will have opportunities as our local economy continues to expand with these new companies.  Al Cook and I are scheduled to meet with Michelin officials next Monday (July 17th) in Paris.  This proposed lay-off at the Opelika plant will be first on our agenda."

In an interesting note from the Michelin Web site, a press release was issued today says its Queretaro plant in Mexico is going to upgrade its production capacity to produce Michelin-brand passenger and light truck tires for the first time in Mexico.

Jim Micali, chairman and president of Michelin North America says the following:

"Mexico is one of the top 10 tire markets in the world, growing at almost twice the rate of the U.S. market. Until today, every Michelin-brand tire sold in Mexico was imported. It is crucial for us to have in-country production to meet the phenomenal demand in Mexico and to increase our total North American capacity for Michelin brand's high-quality tires."

Associated Press contributed to this report