Giti: Richburg tire plant on schedule

Giti Tire is taking the foundational steps to making tires at it Richburg plant. Tire production should start in 2017.
Giti Tire is taking the foundational steps to making tires at it Richburg plant. Tire production should start in 2017.

The Giti Tire workforce at the third-floor office in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village barely fills half of the cubicles or offices.

The chief financial officer works there. So do several accountants. There is a human resources director. There’s an IT person to keep the computers running. The executive vice president for business operations for Giti Tire USA now spends most of his time there.

In a couple of weeks the workforce will double. Giti plans to hire engineers, bringing the total number of employees to about 20.

That number represents just 1 percent of the more than 1,700 workers Giti estimates it will employ when its Richburg tire plant in Chester County is up and running.

The 1 percent, however, is doing the foundation work so that the 1,680 workers that will follow – most of them from the region – can make tires.

The soon-to-be hired engineers will help design the intricacies of the tire plant.

Company executives are carefully looking over the timetables, making sure all the equipment is ordered on schedule. Many of the sophisticated tire-making machines take about a year to make.

They are also looking at schedules for raw materials. Giti – and other tire makers in the South and South Carolina – are closely watching where Evonik Industries locates a second U.S. plant. The German chemical company is said to be considering the South. The company makes a silica-silane mix that could reduce the cost to make tires and save drivers fuel. By using a silica-silane combination in place of carbon black, tiremakers can reduce the rolling-resistance of their tires.

The construction engineers also are monitoring work at the Richburg site, making sure it follows the plan. The Liem family that owns Giti was impressed with the pristine nature of the Richburg site, which once was a dairy farm. Construction plans have been carefully drawn to protect much of the woodland and its 100-year-old trees. The trees also will strategically screen the plant from S.C. 9 and Interstate 77.

So far construction workers have cleared the site for the 1.8 million-square-foot plant. Giti is awaiting air permits before it begins construction of the very long building. Raw materials enter in one end and tires exit at the other end. If market conditions are right, Giti will double the building’s size with |another production line.

The plant will make passenger and light-truck tires for the retail market and, possibly the original equipment market – the automakers. Giti hopes its relationship with Volvo in Asia can lead to tire contracts for the automaker’s new Charleston plant.

What’s most important to Giti officials – and potential Giti employees – is that everything so far is on schedule, said Julianto Djajadi, Giti’s executive vice president for business operations.

Also key for Giti is that the state and Chester County came through as promised. What officials said they would do “is what we have experienced,” Djajadi said.

South Carolina promises include incentives of $37.8 million to buy and prepare the land, $2 million toward water and sewer preparation, and job tax credits. Chester County committed to reducing Giti’s property taxes.

The state Department of Commerce has assigned one person full-time to the project.

For possible employees, the key dates to remember are in the spring and summer of 2016. That’s when the company will start hiring “production talent,” Djajadi said. One of the things they will be looking for are people with multidisciplinary skills, especially those skilled in mechanical engineering and electronics.

What is still unknown, however, is what letters or numbers the U.S. Department of Transportation will assign to the plant. Each tire plant worldwide has a unique two-digit code that identifies where each tire is made. Djajadi said the Richburg plant might get a three digit code, as the U.S. Department of Transportation is running out of two-digit options. The identification system may go to a three-digit code, Djajadi said.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 •