News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Apr. 1, 2013
GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- It's April Fools' Day, but the work happening at Bridgestone's Aiken County Plant is no joke.
"Until you work for Bridgestone, you don't understand how committed Bridgestone is to the community and the environment and really the local community," said Jeff Waters, who works at the plant.
On Monday, some of the 300 new workers looked on as county, state and industry leaders signed the first tire manufactured in the new expansion wing.
Once they're inspected one final time, the tires will be shipped to distribution centers all across the United States. When they're fully operational, they'll be producing about 45,000 tires a day.
"When you walk onto a new car lot, you just look at the tires," Waters said. "The Aiken Plant has its own specific DOT marking, and you look down and you know that it was built in Aiken. It sort of gives you a little bit of pride knowing, you know, I had something to do with that tire."
Waters grew up in the Midland Valley area and now trains workers at Bridgestone.
Jill Munn, however, works in the tire curing press and was brought over from Albany, Ga.
"I worked for another tire company in Georgia, and the plant there actually shut down, and I was out of work for a year and a half, and now I'm back in another more solid tire company," she said.
As for Waters, he worked in a different industry before switching to tire manufacturing.
"I had zero training before I got here," he said. "That's what we're here for."
There are still 550 more jobs to fill. Another phase is being built across Bettis Academy Road. Tires built there will be up to 13 feet tall and weigh 12,000 pounds. They're known as off-the-road radial tires, and they're used in large mining and construction vehicles.
"When you think about where those tires go and how important it is, then you realize that there's something special here, and they could have chosen anywhere in the United States to put this plant," said Will Williams, executive director of the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken and Edgefield counties.
He adds that the ORR plant will be the first of its kind in the United States. He also reminds that the jobs are usually high paying, safe and conducted in clean environments.
He says there's still 1,200 acres open for business in the Sage Mill Industrial Park off Bettis Academy Road. He says plenty more sewer and utility hookups are available, too.