Sentury Tire to employ up to 1,000 in Ga.

Sentury Tire, a fast-growing Chinese tire maker, plans to build a manufacturing and design center in west Georgia near the Alabama line that could employ more than 1,000 people within six years, 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, light-duty pickups and sport utility vehicles under the Sentury, Delinte and Landsail brands.

The company was founded in 2009 and its sales, largely in the aftermarket segment, are just a fraction of leaders such as Bridgestone or Michelin. The company plans to open the plant in 2018 with 350 workers and grow to 1,000 by 2022, a state Department of Economic Development spokeswoman said.

The LaGrange facility will be based in the Callaway South Industrial Park and will focus on car and light truck tires, with capacity building to about 12 million units a year.

“The education systems and high quality workforce complement our leading edge technology in the production and research and development,” Rami Helminen, an executive vice president at Sentury, said in a news release.

LaGrange is not far from the Kia Motors plant in West Point and a Hyundai factory near Montgomery, Ala.

“It’s important when we add manufacturing jobs to remember it’s one of the better compensating sectors of the economy, and a sector of the economy that is particularly important for the less urbanized parts of the state,” said Roger Tutterow, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University.

West Georgia has been hit hard by the loss of textile manufacturing jobs, but the I-85 corridor has rebounded, in part, thanks to automotive jobs, he said.

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

Jobs tax credits alone could be worth $15 million, but the full package will likely be far higher.

Georgia has aggressively pursued Chinese manufacturers, but by many measures has lagged Southeast rivals such as South Carolina. Georgia last year hired rival South Carolina’s top economic development emissary to China in a move to booster the state’s connection to the world’s No. 2 economic power.

A trade delegation, including Chris Riley, Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff, and Chris Carr, the state’s economic development chief, met with company leaders in China last year.

Georgia has had a trade office in China for about a decade and shifted its office to the city of Quindao, where Sentury is based, in 2013.

“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 people.

The Georgia plant is expected to be highly automated, like Sentury’s plants in China and Thailand.

“Sentury Tire’s commitment to locate in LaGrange speaks to Georgia’s business-friendly climate and the strong relationship we maintain with our economic partners in China” Deal said in the release. “We value Sentury Tire’s investment in Georgia and the vision of the company’s leadership for continued growth in Troup County.”

Rubber & Plastics News ranked Sentury as No. 50 out of the Top 75 global tire manufacturers by revenue, with reported sales in fiscal year 2014 of $314 million.

The auto sector is a key segment for the state. Georgia has one auto manufacturer, Kia, but the state aggressively courted Chinese-owned, Swedish-based Volvo for a plant, losing out last year to South Carolina.

Georgia did, however, win the U.S. headquarters for Mercedes-Benz.

The state landed a number of parts suppliers in recent years, including Yachiyo of America in Carrollton, Valmiera Glass in Dublin, and Haring in Hartwell. In May, Kumho Tire opened its first U.S. factory in Macon.

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