Friday, October 27th 2023, 5:07 pm
A Michelin production site in Ardmore announces its closing up shop, leaving 1,400 impacted employees.
Michelin says they’ll have the doors fully closed by 2025 but haven’t given a reason why they’re leaving.
Lawmakers say this was an abrupt decision that caught many government leaders off guard. Now, they’re working to figure out what went wrong with the plant, and how to ensure this doesn’t happen to other Oklahoma companies. “We had no idea this was coming. A plant like this doesn't close with nobody knowing,” said Rep. Jon Echols, ( R) House Majority Floor Leader. “The legislature, had it been brought to our attention, would have been interested in how we protect those Oklahoma jobs.”
The Michelin Tire Factory in Ardmore has been open since 1970 and employs at least 1,400 people, not including outside contractors.
Representative Echols says one of the problems may be that we’re not investing enough in Oklahoma companies, and focusing too much time on bringing outside companies to the state, “While we're continuing to go for these outside entities, Why are we not reinvesting in these Oklahoma companies? We have phenomenal Oklahoma companies here,” said Rep, Echols.
Over the past few years, lawmakers have tried to land deals with Tesla, Volkswagen, and Panasonic, all of which have fallen through. “When you dig down as to why they didn't pull the trigger to stay with us in the end it is traditionally because we don't invest in our people,” said Labor Commissioner, Leslie Osborn.
Many of these companies have been extremely close to closing deals in Oklahoma but decided at the last minute to go to other states like Panasonic going to Kansas.
Osborn says these big companies are fine with state taxes and business models, but their problems usually center around areas that the state ranks lowest in. “They want to know that we have quality school systems, that we have good mental health access, that we have excellent roads and bridges and we’re usually bottom 5 in most of those indicators,” said Osborn.
Governor Stitt said in a statement that he was disappointed that Michelin was leaving Ardmore, saying “Events like this illustrate why it’s important to be the most business-friendly state.” Stitt says he’s working with the Department of Commerce, who told us in a statement that they’re “actively working with the company to find solutions to help transition employees throughout the local and state workforce.”
“Urban Oklahoma can't succeed without rural Oklahoma and vice versa. So no matter where you live in the state, all boats rise together and it's important we see it that way and help everybody in the state,” said Rep. Echols.
The Senate Select Committee on Business Retention and Economic Development is meeting next Tuesday, and they’re hoping to hear from the Department of Commerce and other local and state leaders, to discuss Michelin’s closure and what can be done in the future to keep businesses in the state. “Michelin has been a pillar in Ardmore for decades,” said Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, ( R) OKC.
Michelin says their goal is to have the factory shut down by the end of 2025, or sooner, but says rubber-mixing operations at the Ardmore factory are expected to continue.
Full statement from the Department of Commerce: “The Department of Commerce stands with the community of Ardmore in light of this decision by Michelin. Now that Michelin employees and the community have been informed, Commerce is actively working with the company to find solutions to help transition employees throughout the local and state workforce. With the state’s record-low unemployment coupled with an increased nationwide demand for a skilled workforce, we are optimistic Commerce can assist with employment solutions for Ardmore and surrounding communities.”
Full Statement from Pro Tem Treat: “It is devastating for the community to lose these jobs and I am saddened for the individuals and families that are going to be impacted by this void being left. We called this meeting with Ardmore in mind to see how we can help these individuals in the near-term and what can be done differently in the future to keep major employers in the state. The purpose of this committee in part is to look at all aspects of business and commerce in Oklahoma. We must examine everything, including our shortcomings especially when we lose major employers.”
Full Statement from Governor Stitt: "It’s definitely disappointing to hear that Michelin is leaving Ardmore. They’ve been a mainstay in southern Oklahoma for years. Events like this illustrate why it’s important to be the most business friendly state. Business is constantly changing, but Ardmore is great location with a great workforce, and I have no doubt we will attract more businesses. I know Oklahomans will do what we always do – lend a hand to their neighbor as these folks transition to the next chapter. I’m working with Lt. Gov. Pinnell and the Department of Commerce to make sure those impacted have access to available programs so they land on their feet."
State leaders from Ardmore also responded to the news.
Senator Alvord: "I'm saddened to learn of the announced closure of the Michelin tire plant in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The abruptness of this decision has caught us all off guard, including those in the industry. This decision will undoubtedly have a significant economic impact on our community, and the loss of jobs is deeply distressing. Our thoughts are with the hardworking employees and their families who will be affected by this unfortunate development. I understand the importance of job stability and economic security and will work tirelessly to help bring new opportunities to our great state."
Representative Townley: "I know this decision was not made lightly, and while we would have loved to of been given every opportunity by Michelin North America to keep them growing strong in our area for years to come, we respect their decision to move their operation. We are so grateful that they are going to keep the rubber mixing operation in Ardmore. We will do our best to support the affected families during the shut down process."
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