Firestone Moving Corporate Headquarters To Chicago
AKRON, Ohio (AP) _ Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. has been to Akron what Ford Motor Co. was to Detroit, but is moving its headquarters from the one-time rubber capital of the world to Chicago 87 years after the tire company’s founding here.
″It’s a real shock,″ said Mayor Donald Plusquellic. ″I grew up as the son of a tire builder, and I worked for a time at Firestone loading tires.″
The move, which will affect about 450 of Firestone’s 1,800 salaried employees here, was announced Thursday after a meeting of the board of directors of the nation’s No. 2 tire company.
″We believe there exists (in Chicago) a benefit for senior corporate management to be in one of the nation’s leading regional transportation, financial and retail centers,″ said Firestone spokesman Jim Strandberg.
The mayor said Firestone Chairman John J. Nevin called him with the news, and that Nevin told him the decision was irreversible. The move will begin in the second half of this year, and is expected to take a year, the company said.
″This is a sad day for Akron and a sad day for all of Ohio,″ Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, said in a statement from Washington. ″Firestone has been to Akron what Ford has been to Detroit, and the people of Akron deserved better than to have it sprung on them.″
Firestone’s North American tire operations offices and research, product development, engineering, production management, purchasing, wholesale sales, synthethic rubber and computer center personnel will remain in Akron.
The company, which has eight tire plants and other factories in North America and 14,000 tire and auto service centers in the United States, closed the last of its Akron production facilities in 1981.
Among those moving to Chicago will be corporate officers, financial and legal staff, and personnel department employees, Strandberg said. Firestone also employs about 200 hourly workers in Akron, most of them janitorial employees.
″I’m very sad,″ said Curt Brown, spokesman for the Akron-based United Rubber Workers union. ″I was born here. I don’t understand what Akron has done to deserve this. It’s a desirable community.″
Firestone, which ranks second in the nation in tire sales after Goodyear, employs 27,000 people in the United States and 24,000 in other counties.
Thursday’s announcement was the latest blow to this city of 240,000 people, which has had a long involvement with the tire and industrial rubber industries and was once known as the rubber capital of the world.
The first rubber plant was established here in 1870. Firestone was founded in 1900.
In the mid-1950s, Akron provided a workplace for 50,000 rubber workers and was headquarters for some of the nation’s biggest rubber companies: Firestone, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., B.F. Goodrich Co. and General Tire Co.
Goodyear and Goodrich are still based here. General Tire, which became GenCorp and now has headquarters in the Akron suburb of Fairlawn, plans to sell its tire manufacturing division.
The United Rubber Workers now claim about 7,000 members in the city, but there are no jobs left manufacturing automobile tires.
″These are difficult days, and Akron has certainly suffered its share of blows and bad news,″ Glenn said. ″But I know what the city of Akron is made of, and in the end I know Akron will not just survive, it will prevail.″