Forty years after the first tire rolled off the production line in 1970, Michelin is celebrating the anniversary of its Ardmore plant.


Forty years after the first tire rolled off the production line in 1970, Michelin is celebrating the anniversary of its Ardmore plant.

 

Not only is Michelin recognizing the plant’s 40th anniversary, it is honoring past and present employees and their families, who have been a vital part of the operation’s success since the beginning.

 

“Over the past 40 years, cars and tires have changed dramatically, but the support, energy and professionalism of our employees remains unmatched,” Plant Manager Dave Brenner said. “Not only are we celebrating an important milestone, but we are also looking ahead to a bright future.”

 

The plant was built in 1969 by Uniroyal Tire and then became a Uniroyal Goodrich facility in 1986. Michelin acquired the tire plant in 1990 and has invested more than $400 million in Ardmore since that time.
The tire plant has grown significantly since its opening in 1970.

 

Today, it encompasses 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing operations and produces some of the most technically advanced passenger car and light-truck tires in the country. The facility employs more than 1,700 people, the most of any Michelin manufacturing facility in the United States.

 

Larry Scott and Tom Howell are among the seven employees who have worked at the plant or for the tire company for four decades. Scott has been working there since September 1970, the second week Uniroyal hired production employees, and he cited a few of the changes he’s seen at the tire plant.

 

“One of the biggest changes was when we went from bias-built tires to steel-belted radial tires,” he said. “We had to redesign and rebuild all the machines.”

 

Certainly the biggest challenge for Michelin and the plant’s employees occurred in May 1995 when a tornado basically destroyed the facility. However, due in large part to the employees’ dedication and Michelin’s investment of $45 million, the plant was fully operational just two months later.

 

Scott, who is now area personnel manager, said the tornado damage was so significant he feared the plant wouldn’t reopen.

 

“The credit goes to the employees of the plant,” he said.

 

Howell, who started working at the BFGoodrich plant in Woodburn, Ind., came to Ardmore in 1994 to work in the safety department. He said the employees took a lot of pride in rebuilding the plant after the 1995 tornado.

 

“Our people are our strongest asset,” the environmental engineer said. “It really showed the work ethic of the people we have.”

 

Not only are Bruce Radake and Sheree Radake King brother and sister, they are third-generation employees. Their grandfather, George J. Radake, was a Uniroyal engineer who came out of retirement to help install equipment in the Ardmore plant before it opened. His son (and Bruce and Sheree’s father), George C. Radake, was a Uniroyal engineer for 33 years.

 

“I remember when we moved here,” Radake said. “I’d ride down 12th Avenue on my bicycle to visit my grandfather, who used to live near the plant.”

 

Radake started working at the plant as an electrician in 1989 and later graduated from college with an engineering degree. After working at the tire plant in Opelika, Ala., he returned to Ardmore in 1995. It was in Alabama that he had the opportunity to work with his father for three years — something he calls the highlight of his career.

 

King, who was hired at the plant in 1979 as a tire builder and who is now a recruiting administrator, recalled something interesting about her grandfather.

 

“He lived at the lake in the summer in his camper,” she said. “His favorite thing to fix was liver and onions, which was not our favorite thing to eat.”

 

Although they have gone on to other careers, King and Radake both have daughters who participated in the plant’s summer work program.

 

Cory Henson is another third-generation employee. His grandmother, Thelma Kirby, retired in 1995, and his parents, Harold and Marie Henson, are also retirees.

 

“For a long time, my dad worked weekends and my mother worked days,” he said. “That way, we always had someone to stay with us when we were little.”

 

The Plainview High School graduate said his family might well have a fourth-generation tire plant employee waiting in the wings. His son, Zane, 12, said he wants to work at Michelin too.

 

“Ardmore has been very good for Michelin, And, we like to think that Michelin is good for Ardmore as well,” Brenner said. “We’re actively engaged in the community from recycling to 4-H, to environmental camps and much, more. Ardmore is our home, and we’re committed to giving back to the community that has been wonderfully supportive of us.”

 

June 21, 1968 – Harold Barett, president of Uniroyal Tire Division, announces at a Dornick Hills Country Club luncheon that Ardmore has been selected as the site for a $73 million tire plant June 19, 1969 – Official ground-breaking ceremony attended by Uniroyal and Ardmore Development Authority officials, Gov. Dewey Bartlett, Congressman Carl Albert and many other dignitaries July 30, 1970 – First tire made January 1973 – Employment reaches 1,000 January 1974 – Uniroyal announces investment of more than $6 million to increase plant capacity March 1976 – Employment reaches 1,500 March 24, 1979 – Start of seven-day operation Aug. 2, 1986 – Uniroyal and B.F. Goodrich Tire Companies join forces to create Uniroyal Goodrich May 2, 1990 – Michelin completes its acquisition of the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company May 7, 1995 – Tornado devastates plant; Michelin immediately vows to rebuild June 7, 1995 – First tire built after tornado 2003 – Michelin announces $200 million expansion to increase capacity and allow the plant to produce larger tires. In addition, the plant adds 75,000 square feet September 2009 – Wage employees vote for a 12-hour rotation schedule June 26, 2010 – Facility celebrates 40th anniversary