The tire industry in Akron, Ohio—traditionally known as the rubber capital of the world—is a shadow of its former self. And now Bridgestone Firestone is threatening to relocate its 600-person technical center to Tennessee unless the city comes across with a juicy subsidy deal. A couple of days ago, the Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted deputy mayor Dave Lieberth as saying that the size of the package would be decisive in the company’s decision on whether to move.
As is typical in these situations, a Bridgestone official made it seem as if the money was the last thing on the company’s mind. “We are looking at quantitative and qualitative factors. One is the historic ties the company has with Akron,” a Bridgestone VP told the Plain Dealer. Those ties did not prevent Firestone from moving its headquarters to Chicago in the 1980s nor did they prevent Bridgestone from moving them again to Nashville after the Japanese company acquired Firestone.
It is not yet clear whether Bridgestone actually plans to stay in Akron and is using the threat to leave as a way of pressuring the city to offer the subsidies—or whether it has made up its mind to leave and is letting the city go through the motions of putting together a retention package.
Recently, Bridgestone’s competitor Goodyear got Akron to put up some $50-60 million in subsidies in exchange for a commitment to build its new headquarters in town rather than accepting one of various out-of-state offers.
Both Goodyear and Bridgestone received controversial subsidies in North Carolina that are the target of a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. That case, filed in December, is pending in state court.