Editor’s Note: AAM Field Coordinators Mike Mitchell and Meghan Hasse recently toured the Goodyear Plant in Topeka, Kan. Mike shares what he learned during the visit in the piece below.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., plant in Topeka originally opened in 1944 to help with the American war effort during World War II. The federal government picked Topeka for the plant because of its location near several military installations — and the fact it is 140 miles from the exact center of the United States, making it safer* from attack by foreign armies.
When the war ended in 1945, the federal government sold the plant to Goodyear to manage. Since then, it’s served as one of the biggest private employers in the state.
At one point, Topeka made every tire that Goodyear produced, including for automobiles, bicycles, and aircraft. The plant hit its peak employment at about 4,400 people in the 1970s. Today, about 1,550 employees work at the plant on a 6 2/3 schedule, meaning operations run 24 hours a day, except for a brief period on Sundays.
Workers make a range of tires at the plant, including for buses, off-road vehicles, medium radial truck tires for semi-trucks, and military vehicles. Goodyear also makes the largest tire in the world — the 59/80R63, which is 13 feet tall and weighs close to 12,000 pounds.
The Topeka plant is the second largest tire plant in the world at 3 million square feet — that’s 69 acres under roof. Topeka’s workers are represented by the USW Local 307, the NCFO SEIU Local 7.
Collectively, workers at the plant make $150 million each year in wages and benefits, and more than $24 million a year returns to the community in local spending (not including capital projects). Employees also have given more than $1.3 million to the United Way since 2008, and Goodyear Topeka is one of the largest supporters of Junior Achievement in the state. Employees hold four blood drives every year.
At one time, it looked like Goodyear would close the plant. But since 2008, Goodyear has invested more than $600 million in this plant and officials maintain the company is committed to “making its operations work in North America.”
There also are things our government can do to support domestic manufacturers such as Goodyear and ensure there’s a level playfield for American workers, too. To start, policymakers should check out AAM’s Blueprint for the Future.
*America should learn from its past and support domestic manufacturing efforts. As Brigadier Gen. John Adams writes in ReMaking American Security, our reliance on foreign suppliers puts America’s military at risk.