Continental to expand, add jobs

The good times are still rolling for Continental Tire.

The national tire manufacturer announced plans Thursday to increase its presence in South Carolina, both with the expansion of its headquarters in Indian Land and construction of a new tire manufacturing plant in Sumter County.

Over the next 10 years, Continental Tire the Americas plans to invest $500 million in the creation of its new plant in Sumter County as a way to meet demand from retailers and automotive manufacturers, according to a press release.

The plan is expected to create 1,700 new jobs in the state.

Company officials say the plant could produce almost five million tires by 2017, which would increase to eight million tires by 2021.

There was also cause to celebrate locally, as the company announced plans for an expansion to its Indian Land facility, located in the MacMillan Business Park.

“We are also announcing an investment of more than $4 million in our Lancaster County, South Carolina headquarters to help meet the needs of our growing workforce,” said Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas, in the release.

Etzel said the company will construct a 16,000-square-foot addition to its headquarters, bringing the total size of the building to 91,000 square feet. They will also add 80 new jobs, increasing the workforce at the headquarters to more than 430 employees.

Kathryn Blackwell, spokeswoman for Continental Automotive, said the 80 jobs will be created over the next four years.

“It’s a good news day for South Carolina,” Blackwell said.

With the company growing more than 20 percent during the last two years, Blackwell said this has translated to a need for more space at their headquarters for financial, marketing and operations employees.

“As the business is growing, so is the workforce,” she said. “Not long ago we opened that building, but we’re already outgrowing it and we need additional general office space.”

Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. President Keith Tunnell said his staff has been working with Continental for several months in relation to the expansion, though the company wanted to wait until they could make both announcements at the same time.

Tunnell said he’s pleased with the company’s involvement in the area.

“If we weren’t going to get the manufacturing facility, at least it’s within driving distance. And we’re definitely happy with the headquarters expansion,” Tunnell said. “We’re happy to get extra jobs and investment.”

He expects the company could begin construction soon at the headquarters.

“It’s a good day for Lancaster, a good day for Sumter and just a good day all around for South Carolina,” he said.

U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney (SC-5) even weighed in on the announcement Thursday.

“Continental’s new facility will create nearly 1,700 new jobs, getting folks in the fifth district and across South Carolina working again,” Mulvaney said in a press release. “I am thankful Continental has chosen to build and expand in the fifth district, and I look forward to the economic growth that will benefit our state as a result. And I look forward to the new jobs for the hard-working citizens in the fifth district.”

Continental moved from Charlotte and opened its new Indian Land headquarters in March 2009. Located at 1830 MacMillan Park Drive, the building houses Continental’s passenger and light truck tire group, as well as their commercial tire group. The company invested $11 million for the facility, which sits on 11.5 acres of land.

Continental employs 150,000 at nearly 200 locations in 36 countries, including Canada, South America, Asia and Australia.

By Christopher Sardelli, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News