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Posted on: November 21, 2016

Goodyear to mark 50 years in Danville next week

Goodyear — Danville’s largest private employer — broke ground in Danville 50 years ago and cured its first tire on Nov. 25, 1966.

The company’s Danville plant manager gave a history of the factory during the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast meeting Friday morning.

Goodyear has a dedicated workforce, plant manager Greg Kerr told the crowd of local business leaders.

Goodyear in Danville has invested more than $200 million in its facility and employs more than 2,100 people, Kerr said. “Goodyear continues to invest in Danville,” he said to attendees during his presentation that included images from the past 50 years at the plant.

During his remarks, Kerr made a brief reference to recent workplace deaths that have happened at Goodyear. Between August 2015 and August 2016, there were four fatalities. The plant has been hit with more than $1 million in state fines and more than 100 citations related to two deaths, a steam-burn injury and unsafe working conditions.

“As you know, it’s been a tough year for Goodyear,” Kerr said, adding that the plant has focused on its safety systems.

“Goodyear is committed to the health and safety of its employees,” Kerr told the Danville Register & Bee after the presentation. “We’re going to do whatever we can to improve our employees’ safety.”

He said the plant is working with Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program. He declined to elaborate on what types of workplace improvements are being made at the plant.

Goodyear selected a site in Danville for its 10th tire plant in late 1965. Construction started on the 540,475-square-foot facility on March 10, 1966, making it Goodyear’s largest single-unit plant built to date. On Nov. 25, 1966, the Danville plant cured its first 900 x 20 truck tire.

The plant built its first radial tires in the 1970s, and had about 1,600 employees in the region in 1972, Kerr said.

Its employees volunteered their time to build Goodyear’s golf course in the 1980s. Also, the Danville plant built the company’s third billionth tire globally during that decade, Kerr said.

The 1990s saw the radialization of the plant’s MLT truck tires, said Kerr, who showed a video of the tire-making process at Goodyear.

The Goodyear-Danville plant produces radial truck tires, bias aircraft tires and radial aircraft tires. Since 1966, the plant has cured more than 100 million truck and aircraft tires for the world market.

Danville is the only plant in North America that makes aviation tires for Goodyear, Kerr said during the presentation.

Since 1966, the facility has grown to about 2 million square feet, covering about 56 acres. It’s located on 710 acres — part of which is in North Carolina, Kerr said.

About 70 percent of its employees have worked at the plant for 15 years or less, while 16 percent have been there for 25 years or more, Kerr said. It has employed more than 9,200 people over the past 50 years.

The Goodyear-Danville plant supplies tires to many of the world’s leading truck and aircraft manufacturers and trucking companies, including Airbus, Boeing, FedEx Corporation, Fleetwood, Inc., the Freightliner division of Daimler Trucks North America, LLC, most major airlines, and the U.S. military.

The plant has an economic impact of about $1.25 billion in total output, Kerr said.

During the breakfast meeting, Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, presented recognition to Kerr from the General Assembly commending Goodyear’s contribution to Danville.

John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

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