After four years in the works, Hankook Tire is ready to fire up its massive new manufacturing facility just outside Clarksville.
The South Korean company officially opened the $800 million plant, which will churn out 5.5 million tires a year and eventually employ 1,800 people, with a ceremony Tuesday morning. The event offered many people, including some public officials, their first up-close look at the sprawling facility covering more than 30 acres.
"It will become the third-largest employer in our entire county, after Fort Campbell and our school system," said Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan. The impact that that can make on our community is tremendous."
Hankook hopes to eventually make as many as 11 million tires a year in Clarksville, its eighth plant worldwide but first in the United States. It's also opened a U.S. headquarters in Nashville.
The company is working to expand its sales in the United States, especially through tire stores. The plant will also supply automakers.
Haslam returns from Asia
The opening ceremony also marked Gov. Bill Haslam's first public appearance in Tennessee since returning on a trade mission to Asia.
It was the governor's third trip to South Korea and Japan in the past four years. But Haslam says there's still new ground to cover in those countries.
"When we travel now, it's about sometimes seeing existing firms — we were with Hankook last week — but we also had a chance to meet with six or seven other new firms that we haven't had a chance to talk to in the past."
Haslam says his administration isn't targeting any particular sectors. He says the pitch is pretty much the same for all companies: that Tennessee has a geographically desirable location close to East Coast and Midwestern markets, but is less expensive than many other states.