Chinese manufacturer Sentury Tire picks LaGrange for new plant

Sentury Tire, a fast-growing Chinese tire maker, plans to build a manufacturing and research center in west Georgia near the Alabama line that could eventually employ more than 1,000 people, the company and state leaders said Thursday.

The $530 million factory complex in LaGrange, about 70 miles southwest of Atlanta, will be the first in North America for the company. Sentury makes aircraft tires as well as radials for cars, crossovers and light-duty pickups and sport utility vehicles under Sentury, Delinte and Landsail brands.

The LaGrange facility will be based in the Callaway South Industrial Park and is expected to open in 2018, the company said.

“The education systems and high quality workforce complement our leading edge technology in the production and research and development,” Sentury Executive Vice President Rami Helminen said in a news release. Helminen credited the state’s infrastructure to help in the company’s expansion in the aftermarket tire segment and sales to original vehicle manufacturers.

The full value of the incentive package to woo Sentury was not immediately known, but the company is eligible for tax credits for new jobs created and likely will receive property tax breaks, worker training and other incentives.

Georgia has aggressively pursued a number of Chinese manufacturers for the past few decades, but by many measures lagged Southeastern rivals such as South Carolina. Georgia last year hired rival South Carolina's top economic development official to China in a move to booster the state's connection to the world's No. 2 economic power.

A visit with Sentury executives was at the top of the agenda last year during a state trade mission. The trade delegation included Chris Riley, Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff and the state’s economic development chief, Chris Carr.

“This project is a great example of the relationships that have been forged through active communication and engagement in China,” Carr said in the announcement.

Sentury reportedly considered a sprawling industrial park near Memphis and numerous sites in Georgia. The Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported the company’s pick of Georgia, citing unnamed individuals.

The company also operates factories in China and Thailand. Like its other factories, Sentury’s Georgia plant will feature a high level of automation.

“We value Sentury Tire’s investment in Georgia and the vision of the company’s leadership for continued growth in Troup County,” Deal said in the release. “I am positive that Georgia’s automotive manufacturing and technology capabilities will be assets to Sentury Tire as the company serves a growing customer base.”