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Big investment in Tonawanda tire plant signals a solid future for a major employer

In another sign of strength in local heavy manufacturing, Sumitomo Rubber Industries plans to invest $87 million to double tire-making capacity at its Town of Tonawanda plant.

While that may not mean more hiring, the move solidifies the 1,200 jobs already here, including the 130 jobs added since an ownership change last year. As News business reporter Matt Glynn wrote, the company says it will increase the site’s production capacity to 10,000 tires per day, up from its current capacity of 5,000 tires per day, by the end of 2019.

Formerly known as Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America, the plant will increase capacity for passenger car and light truck tires, as SUV tires are in “particularly high demand in North America.” It also produces tires for trucks, buses and motorcycles.

Tim Noe, senior vice president of manufacturing for Sumitomo Rubber USA, says the company’s goal is to “improve the productivity, cost and the competitiveness of the Buffalo factory.”

The plan to virtually double tire production sends a strong signal that Buffalo continues to be a good location for manufacturers, with a trained workforce and a history of producing good work.

This message has gotten through to top officials at Sumitomo Rubber. Buffalo has had more than its share of lost manufacturing jobs – employment has fallen about 40 percent from 25 years ago – but it remains an important industry.

General Motors has invested $825 million in its Town of Tonawanda engine plant for two new engine lines, and another $44 million on its Lockport components plant to support new product launches. Ford Motor Co. committed $150 million to upgrading its stamping plant in Hamburg.

Sumitomo’s hourly workers make about $62,000 a year, according to Thomas O’Shei, president of Steelworkers Local 135, who added: “These jobs don’t grow on trees in Western New York.”

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