It’s nicknamed Rubber City, so it might surprise you to learn that Akron, Ohio, hasn’t welcomed a single new tire plant since World War II.
It's pretty exciting, then, that Bridgestone Americas will be opening a Firestone plant there this summer. But it gets better: The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting that this plant will have the honor of producing tires for IndyCar open-wheel racing.
The first IndyCar tires are expected to roll off the production line 2020, and the company recently announced that it has secured a deal with IndyCar that runs through 2025.
The new plant is located across the street from the Bridgestone Americas Technical Center, which is home to the race-tire engineering team. The factory is reportedly still being designed, but the intention is to renovate and extend the existing race tire operation in Akron.
In the rocky years leading up to its acquisition by Bridgestone, Firestone closed 17 plants and moved its headquarters from Akron, Ohio, to Chicago. Since then, Firestone — which was founded in Akron in the year 1900 — returned to its roots by building its technical center in the city in 2012.
The announcement from Firestone comes at the same time that the city is getting another big project off the ground: building a multi-million-dollar business complex on the blighted land that Firestone’s headquarters and plant once occupied before the company fled the Rust Belt. On December 20, 2018, officials broke ground on the new Firestone Business Park, a public-private partnership that hopes to revitalize more than 20 acres of land to bring new opportunities to the area.
As for tires, the last “full-scale tire factory” in Akron, Ohio, according to the Beacon Journal, was General Tire’s Plant 1, which shut down in 1982 — one year after Firestone closed its last passenger-tire plant in the city.