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A Sumter plant that employs more than 200 Clarendon County residents has been recognized as one of the leading manufacturers in the tire industry.
Continental Tire was named 2017 Tire Manufacturer of the Year last week by trade journal Tire Technology International, with company officials being presented with the Tire Technology International Award at an industry meeting in Hanover, Germany. Other finalists included Michelin, Yokohama and Hankook.
First presented by the magazine in 2008, the award is judged by a "high-caliber panel of 27 judges, including experts from Europe, Japan, India and the United States, who honor the investments that Continental has initiated over the past 12 months," according to a statement from Tire Technology International.
"We are very excited about this award because it appreciates several technology projects and innovations that we have already realized, working consistently within the scope of our Vision 2025 long-term growth strategy," said Continental Executive Board member Nikolai Setzer, who is also head of the company's tire division. "At the same time, being awarded as the most innovative tire manufacturer highly motivates our global team - now more than 50,000 employees - to continue on this path, step-by-step."
Continental, the world's fourth-largest tire manufacturer, with sales in excess of more than $10.28 billion worldwide.
The German-based corporation began construction on its Sumter facility in 2011, and employed more than 800 people within a year. Company executives expect the plant to have double that amount of workers when expansions to the 1 million square foot facility are complete. In 2016, the company produced a worldwide total of more than 150 million passenger car and light truck tires.
Among Continental's innovations that persuaded the judges were the opening in June 2016 of its High Performance Technology Center in Korbach, Germany; the Taraxagum project that involves setting up a research center in Anklam, Germany, for the industrialization of natural rubber from dandelion roots; and production of the first ever truck tire with tread made of dandelion rubber. The judges also mentioned the announcement of a research and development center for agricultural tires in Lousado, Portugal, and the expansion of Continental's truck tire production operations in Otrokovice, Czech Republic.
"Consumers of everything from ultra-high performance tires to agricultural ones, in markets from Europe to China, will benefit from Continental's outstanding commitment to investment in research and development, testing and manufacturing in the past 12 months," said Tire Technology International Editor Graham Heeps, who also chaired the judging panel. "This annual award for innovation and excellence honors particularly bright ideas and the hard work put in by the tire design and production industry. Candidates are either nominated by the readers of Tire Technology International or put forward by the editorial staff. The independent panel of experts then votes to choose the winners."
The company was previously recognized as Tire Manufacturer of the Year in 2014.
"The tire division currently has more than 24 production and development locations worldwide," said Setzer. "The broad product range and continuous investments in research and development make a major contribution to cost-effective and ecologically efficient mobility. As one of the world's leading tire manufacturers with about 49,000 employees, the tire division achieved sales of $10.4 billion in 2015."