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Published: Friday, 4/1/2005

Firm weighs buying Continental Tire plant

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A German company and American investors are looking into buying the 300-employee Continental Tire North America Inc. tire factory in Bryan, a move that would save the plant from likely closure.

That according to Kent Hardy, a union official who represents hourly workers at the plant.

Mr. Hardy, secretary of United Steelworkers of America Local 890L, said union officials have met with the potential buyers, the Roesler Group and investors led by Mel Kurtz of Independence, Ohio. Serious negotiations for a new labor contract are about to begin with the potential joint-venture partners, who are studying the financial aspects of the operation, Mr. Hardy said.

Continental has told the union for years it wanted to sell the factory, which primarily makes giant off-road tires used on earth-moving equipment, the union official said. While the company has indicated it will close the factory if a buyer is not found, Roesler and the investors would continue making tires at the plant, he said.

"It's pretty obvious to us that Continental no longer wants to do that," Mr. Hardy said. "We're very hopeful that we can work out a good deal and the people will be here a long time."

A spokesman for Continental Tire, owned by Germany's Continental AG, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. Mr. Kurtz could not be reached for comment yesterday, and a U.S. contact could not be found for Roesler.

Local 890L fears the Bryan factory will face the same fate as Continental Tire's plant in Mayfield, Ky., the union official said. The Mayfield plant no longer produces tires, and the work force was chopped from about 1,400 to less than 200, he said.

Continental is not honoring contract language regarding pension benefits, health insurance, and life insurance for displaced workers in Mayfield, he said. The Bryan union local plans to hold a rally against the firm tomorrow morning in the downtown Williams County city.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Continental Tire has nearly 6,500 employees and six plants in North America.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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