West Point, MS. Under brilliant sunshine competing with the beaming smiles of hundreds of well-wishers, Yokohama Tire Corp. (YTC) officially broke ground here yesterday on a nearly 500-acre greenfield site for its new commercial- truck tire manufacturing plant. The plan will be YTC’s first “from-the-ground-up” manufacturing operation in the U.S.

The plant, responsibility for which falls under the tire maker’s newly formed manufacturing subsidiary, Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi (YTMM), is slated to begin producing tires in October 2015.

The roughly 1-million-sq-ft plant will include production, warehousing and operations facilities, and will produce up to 3,000 tires a day-- one-million annually-- during its Phase I operations.

The site is located within the business-development area known as Mississippi’s Golden Triangle (a region in North Mississippi encompassing Columbus, Starkville and West Point) and is 149 miles from the state capital at Jackson. The tire maker had announced back in April that it would locate the plant here in West Point after researching other sites.

That same month, the Mississippi Legislature approved a total of $130 million in incentives to assist with the YTC project, including $70 million allotted for the initial phase.

Part of that funding was used toward the purchase of the 500-acre site for the facility with the remainder earmarked for or site preparation, infrastructure requirements and workforce training.

According to Yokohama, it is making an initial $300-million investment in the facility with approximately 500 jobs expected to be created during Phase I operations.

Potential future expansions at the plant to meet market demand are projected by YTC to increase the company’s investment to more than $1 billion and to raise employment from 500 to 2,000 jobs.

The event was attended by Hikomitsu Noji , president & representative director of YTC’s parent firm, The Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., other Yokohama executives, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), state and local officials and more than 350 guests.

“This is a great day for Yokohama, Mississippi and the community of West Point,” said YTMM’s president Tadaharu Yamamoto. “As we move forward with construction of our new tire-making facility, I’d like to personally thank Gov. Bryant, his staff and all the people in Mississippi for their support on this incredible endeavor. There’s no question we made the right choice coming to Mississippi with this project.”

In addition, Yamamoto told FleetOwner that the thinking behind the plant was to make it “exclusively responsive to our U.S. customers,” including how it has been designed to be expanded up to fourfold in production capacity.

“Today is a very exciting day as Yokohama prepares to begin construction of its very first U.S. manufacturing facility to be built from the ground up,” said Gov. Bryant. “Just five short months ago, the company announced its plans to locate these operations in West Point, and I am grateful to the Yokohama team and those at the state and local levels for working so quickly to get this project underway.”

“The Golden Triangle is happy to add a manufacturer with the reputation and credentials of Yokohama. West Point and Clay County look forward to working towards the full build-out of what we expect to be the world’s preeminent tire plant,” said Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins. 

The groundbreaking ceremony capped an event at which YTC also formally introduced Yamamoto as president of YTMM and announced it had recently opened new operational headquarters in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park in Starkville, MS. That facility houses several business functions, including administrative, human resources, information management and planning.

YTC is the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Tokyo, Japan-based The Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., a global manufacturer of tires since 1917.

[PICTURED: Among the many Yokohama and government officials who wielded silver-tipped spades at the groundbreaking were (left to right): Gov. of Mississippi Phil Bryant, Yokohama’s Hikomitsu Noji, YTMM’s Tadaharu Yamamoto, and Marlo Dorsey of the State of Mississippi Development Authority.]