NC approves incentives for Bridgestone’s $200M+ Wilson investment

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By Lauren K. Ohnesorge  – Senior Staff Writer, Triangle Business Journal

Tire giant Bridgestone is plotting a capital expansion at its Wilson County plant, where it already employs about 2,000 people, including contract workers.

On Tuesday, the state of North Carolina approved incentives to reel in Bridgestone’s investment, expected to be more than $200 million over six years.

While there’s no job creation requirement for the grant, the firm must maintain its current workforce. And it must make at least $150 million in improvements within a six-year period.

The maximum grant amount the firm will be eligible for depends on several factors, including the firm’s expenditures on worker training, taxes and permits, as well as the General Assembly appropriation. But it could be up to $3 million annually for the years 2018 through 2027.

The plant already ships about 35,000 tires per day, but more is needed to keep up with the demand, officials said Tuesday. The Wilson plant is one of two Bridgestone tire manufacturing facilities in the United States.

And right now, its payroll averages salaries of more than $64,500. Wilson County’s average is about $42,300.

According to state documents, Bridgestone’s additional investments are necessary to “enable the company to produce the latest technology tire.”

“Bridgestone plans to replace obsolete tire machines with state of the art VMI machines,” states a project executive summary released by the N.C. Department of Commerce. “At the same time, it will upgrade operating systems on its current equipment.”

The investment will also require additional employee training.

And it’s one of several equipment expansions the Tennessee-based Bridgestone Americas operation has pledged for the site, which produced its first tire in 1974. In early 2017, for example, Bridgestone’s U.S. subsidiary announced that it would be making an additional investment of $180 million over the next 10 years at the site – a total of $344 million over the next decade.

The state’s Economic Investment Committee approved incentives during its regular meeting Tuesday. The EIC, part of Commerce, is charged with approving tax reimbursement packages intended to lure expansions and relocations to the state.

The EIC meets twice a month at the Commerce boardroom in downtown Raleigh.