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Back on track: production picks up at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Texarkana plant following a slow 1991.

With 1,600 employees, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. now manufactures 38,000 radial passenger tires per day at Texarkana.

The facility accounts for 25 percent of the company's $1 billion in annual sales.

Texarkana Chamber of Commerce President Robert E. "Swede" Lee says Cooper, which established its Texarkana facility in 1964, is responsible for additional area jobs.

"There are twice as many people employed by spin-offs of Cooper," he says. "There probably are 5,000 people working around here who wouldn't be without Cooper."

The Texarkana plant is the largest of Cooper's four tire facilities, according to the plant manager, Bob Nelson. Cooper, which is based in Ohio, also operates three industrial rubber plants and two inner tube plants.

Nelson says Texarkana's location makes it an ideal spot for a production and distribution facility.

"When it opened in 1964, the plant was 225,000 SF and produce 4,000 tires per day," he says. "We're now on our way to 40,000 tires per day."

The Texarkana complex occupies 2 million SF.

Decreased Sales

Decreased sales during the first quarter of 1991, a result of the recession, caused Cooper to cut back on production. But business is back on track, according to Nelson.

"We are gradually increasing our daily production," he says. "We should reach our goal."

Three years ago, Cooper initiated a program focusing on employee involvement.

"By soliciting employees' opinions, forming problem-solving teams and getting employees involved in everyday operations, we've strengthened our position in the market and enhanced the work environment," Nelson says.

"In the old days, we would have the employee park his brain at the door. Today, we want to pick his brain, find out what he thinks and put his thoughts to use."

Employee participation is not all that has changed in the tire industry.

During the 1970s, the industry was revolutionized when bias-ply tires were replaced by radial-ply tires. By 1988, the Texarkana plant was producing only radial tires.

Another major change has been the increase in the number of foreign-owned tire companies.

Cooper, which began operations in 1914, is now one of two domestically owned, publicly traded tire manufacturers in the United States. The other is Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
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Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 6, 1992
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