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BFGoodrich Closing Alabama Plant

Tue, 04/14/2009 - 5:00am

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) -- Michelin North America said Monday it will permanently close its BFGoodrich Tire plant in east Alabama because of declining demand, a move that will cost about 1,000 jobs.

The 1 million-square-foot plant, which has made tires since 1963, will shut down by Oct. 31. The move will cost about 800 hourly jobs and another 200 management positions.

Michelin's chief operations officer, Scott Clark, blamed the decision on decreasing demand for replacement tires. The market has contracted three of the last four years, he said.

"It's a far greater decline than what we have seen at other times in history," he said. "We anticipate the market we will decline again in 2009."

The decision doesn't immediately affect the company's plants in Tuscaloosa or Fort Wayne, Ind., which employ about 1,500 people each and will be able to accelerate work with the shutdown in Opelika.

The Opelika factory manufactures tires for passenger cars and light trucks under the BFGoodrich and Uniroyal names and make non-branded tires.

Mayor Gary Fuller said company officials warned the city in December that the tire business was tough and getting tougher.

"We'll get through this. We've been making tires in Opelika for 45 years, so Oct. 31 isn't a day we're looking forward to," he said.

Clark said the company did not plan to reduce the work force gradually, as happens with some closings.

"We'll run the factory until it's time to shut it down," he said.

Opelika, located near Auburn between Montgomery and the Georgia state line, has dealt with the loss of thousands of jobs over the last decade. It's still considered a growing area because of businesses coming in with a Kia automotive plant that will be located less than 20 miles away in West Point, Ga.

Fuller said the BFGoodrich closing frees up qualified manufacturing employees to work for Kia suppliers and other companies, but the area will still feel its loss.

"There have been a lot of homes bought and paid for, a lot of cars, a lot of children, who have been paid for through that plant," Fuller said.

Based in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America employs 22,600 people and operates 19 major manufacturing plants.

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