A Giti Tire executive said that the company is “on track” to hire 1,700 new positions at its Richburg plant over the coming decade.
The $560 million plant — Giti’s first North American manufacturing facility, its ninth worldwide — already has hired some workers to prepare the facility for production. The 1,100-acre site is expected to begin production of passenger and light truck tires later this year, with sales beginning in early 2018, according to Dobradenka. During the first phase of production, the plant could make 5 million tires annually, or around 30,000 a day. That number could quickly double, based on market demand, Dobradenka said.
The plant is currently in a “hiring blitz” to get local workers who can run the manufacturing lines.
Production of the Passat tires could begin as early as January 2019, with sales beginning later that summer.
Other Giti brand tired to be produced in Chester County will include: Primewell, sold at Firestone Complete Auto Care stores; Dextero, sold at Walmart Auto Care Centers; and GT Radial, sold at Discount Tire stores and independent retailers.
Those tires could be on store shelves by the first quarter of 2018.
Giti, based in Singapore, has plans to expand its facility by around 2022 to house the projected 1,700 jobs, according to Karlisa Parker, the economic development director for Chester County. Those jobs include manufacturers, accountants, engineers, and other positions.
It’s not immediately clear what pay ranges those jobs could offer.
“From the start, they’ve always talked about the opportunity to double the plant,” Parker said.
Company officials say the Passat deal opens the door to several new possibilities. Landing a brand like Volkswagen lends the North America plant credibility and prestige, Dobradenka said.
“We’re very happy, as you can imagine,” he said. “Not only does this allow us to work with VW and others, we’re talking about… possibly a million tires a year, just for one program. This sort of thing can start escalating. For contracts like this, this bodes very well for employment.”
Equipment manufacturers have turned toward local suppliers because of the “Made in America” brand trust, he said.
South Carolina and Chester County worked with Giti for around three years to land the company.
The state’s Coordinating Council on Economic Development approved a $37.8 million grant to help purchase and improve the mega site property. The Rural Infrastructure Authority approved a $2 million grant to assist with extending water and sewer to the site.
The company also qualified for job development credits — for up to 10 years — to help offset the cost of locating a facility, buying equipment and training employees. The credits are based on the number of jobs created.
The current workers are going through a series of simulations to ensure efficiency once the plant starts producing later this year. Dobradenka said local Chester County residents are being considered for future jobs.
Giti officials previously said they considered the quality of the work force was a significant factor in choosing Chester County.
Parker said the jobs are a boon for Chester County workers, who have struggled ever since area mills began to shut down, leaving many jobless.
While the Giti positions may not make up for everything, they are an important step forward for the county, Parker said.
“We went through a very rough time when the mills shut down,” Parker said. “This is a very big deal for Chester County. People who want to get in on the ground floor of a great company will have that opportunity. … For a rural community that experienced devastating losses, we’ve made a wonderful turnaround.”
Parker said that of South Carolina workers, around 11 percent worked in manufacturing. In Chester County, 23.3 percent of residents work in manufacturing, she said.
Giti is not the only tire manufacturer with a North America hub in South Carolina. Michelin is based in Greenville.
Workers began building the Giti plant more than two years ago, headlined by a celebration attended by former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and local and Giti officials. The site is at 2978 Lancaster Highway in Richburg, near the Interstate 77 interchange at S.C. Highway 9. The site will hold a plant dedication ceremony this fall.