In August, Bridgestone and the state of Tennessee announced that Bridgestone will be making a $550 million major expansion that will create new jobs at the Warren County plant; however, the PILOT agreement negotiated for this expansion also generated a lot of attention.
Bridgestone’s local plant currently employs about 1,100. It’s been operational since the early 1990s. Planned is an 850,000-square-foot expansion. According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the project is expected to be “substantially complete” by May 2024. Once finished, Bridgestone will grow from 1.97 million square feet to 2.8 million square feet.
“Bridgestone’s expansion in Morrison is a great example of Tennessee’s economic vitality and our ability to attract new investment across a broad range of industries,” said Gov. Bill Lee following the announcement.
The expansion will support increased capacity and accelerate the use of advanced technologies that support cleaner, safer and more efficient commercial truck and bus fleets. The $550 million investment will allow for all tires made in Morrison to be equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, which will enable more efficient asset management and optimization of fleets’ investment in tires, including retreading.
The plant will also incorporate technology for digital readiness in tires, including the integration of tire-mounted sensors that support advanced, data-driven insights for more efficient fleet management.
The Warren County plant is one of Bridgestone’s most productive operations globally. The plant has a long history of outstanding performance and best practices in manufacturing, with its 70 millionth tire produced in October 2021.
In November, county commissioners were required to vote on a resolution that will result in Bridgestone paying $650,000 per year for its current site and expansion in lieu of paying taxes. IDB president Don Alexander presented this PILOT to the commissioners and received scrutiny over the negotiations.
Bridgestone is currently only paying $650,000 per year in lieu of taxes and will continue to pay the same amount after the expansion. At the county commission meeting when the resolution approving the PILOT was voted on and approved, a few commissioners expressed their disappointment in the negotiations.
“The biggest thing with me is I feel the negotiation with this was not the best. I feel like we had a lot of playing cards in hand that we had to work with. Coming up in 2029 this PILOT would have been over with and we would be bringing in $2 million worth of revenue in taxes from Bridgestone. I’m sure we would have made another PILOT with them, there’s no doubt in my mind, and we should because they do bring a lot to Warren County, but Warren County gives a lot to them,” said Commissioner Cole Taylor during the meeting.
Commissioner Steven Helton was also unhappy with the negotiation, but voted to approve it because he wants Bridgestone to grow and do well.
“I want to challenge our IDB. Now we have all this growth. Where is the sewer going to come from for our Industrial Park? Where’s that money going to come from? Are you going to come to the commission and ask for that? We have had some issues with the infrastructure here so who is going to pay for the roads? How are we going to pay for those? How are we going to keep the schools that are going to have these new employees come and bring their families, how are we going to pay for that? How are we going to pay for the infrastructure that is going to be needed to support not only the 380 jobs that they are bringing, but according to this, it looks like we are going to get 1,141 total jobs? That is amazing guys, but it takes a lot of money to continue to grow and to help that and that is where I think our IDB has failed us. Bridgestone, kudos to you. We appreciate you and look forward to seeing you grow,” said Helton.
The resolution to approve the PILOT passed unanimously in the November county commission meeting. The Bridgestone expansion is expected to be completed around May 2024 and will reportedly generate 380 new jobs.