The Economic Development Association of Alabama is helping the city of Gadsden to strategize options as Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. draws down its operations in that central Alabama town, where the plant has operated since 1929.
Company officials said recently that the plant, where employment dropped to 400 from a high of 4,000 workers, will be shuttered in June. It has already ceased operations.
It wasn’t unexpected — talks of a shutdown have been a regular thing for decades — and local officials had done more than one round of incentives to keep Goodyear happy. The company said the factory’s aging infrastructure made it a liability.
Jim Searcy, executive director of EDAA, said he likes Etowah County’s chances moving forward. He addressed a virtual group May 8 during the Rise and Shine Economic Development Speaker Series, hosted by The Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County.
Searcy said companies both in the U.S. and abroad are likely to make investments on North American soil to protect supply chains and market share, citing vulnerabilities revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic related to medical equipment and products.
“Etowah County is certainly well-positioned to pursue that, as well as any kind of supply chain,” he added. He also suggested that the top industry prospects for the area include automotive, supply chain logistics and advanced manufacturing.
In its heyday, the Goodyear plant produced 17,000 tires a day. Employees had also made concessions over the years to keep the operation running. About 750 employees took a buyout last year.
Many point to a new plant in Mexico that opened in 1917 as being a chief cause for Gadsden’s factory closing.
Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, weighed in with this statement:
“This recent decision made by Goodyear to close their Gadsden facility is sad to hear by anyone who knows the long tradition and relationship that Goodyear has had with the Gadsden community. I know that this closure announcement will cause hardship for so many families.
“My office stands ready to assist Goodyear employees to receive any, and all, federal assistance that might be available to them due to this announcement. I also want to continue to do what I can and work with the local and state leaders as they work to bring new economic opportunities to Gadsden and Etowah County.”
EDAA’s Searcy says the area has many ways to grow, with its strong labor pool of former Goodyear employees, the Little Canoe Creek Megasite, and proximity to automobile manufacturers in the state with established transportation infrastructure.
“Etowah County is in great shape for recruitment, with a river, infrastructure, and an AdvantageSite certified megasite,” Searcy says.
Industrial development requires long range planning, and recruiting a candidate is much more likely in the 18-month range than in the 6-month range, he adds.