April 11 - Michelin North American Chairman Pete Selleck is confident enough in the global economy to go ahead with a $750 million expansion of his company's U.S. tire operations, creating as many as 500 jobs. Conway G. Gittens reports.
THIS EDIT REPLACES CORRUPTED 3205-USA-MICHELIN TIRES/ECONOMY It takes some big tires to keep the global construction industry rolling along - and despite growing signs the world's economy may be tapping on the brakes - tire maker Michelin is confident economic growth will resume longer-term. Pete Selleck is Chairman and President of Michelin North America: SOUNDBITE: PETE SELLECK, CHAIRMAN/PRESIDENT, MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We are seeing globally similar things that other companies are seeing. We're seeing some problems in southern Europe today, clearly there are economies that are in recession there. We're seeing a little bit of a slowdown in India and in China but in the United States we expect to see a GDP growth of between 2 and 2-1/2 percent this year and that's a significant amount of growth. So globally we are not concerned about the world falling into another major recession. We are throttling our business based on what actually is happening in the economy and we are generally confident about what the future holds." And for Michelin that's where the rubber meets the road. Selleck is confident enough in the company's long term prospects for large Earthmover tires that he's going ahead with a $750 million expansion plan in the U.S. that will add 500 jobs. SOUNDBITE: PETE SELLECK, CHAIRMAN/PRESIDENT, MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The demand is coming from everywhere. These plants that we are building, or this expansion that we are doing, is to serve the global market, so it will certainly supply growth in infrastructure needs here in the United States. A large amount of it will go up to Canada; about 30 percent of our Earthmover tire capacity goes to Canada; a lot of that to go to the oil sands where obviously energy independence is very important to develop, but at the same time as emerging markets continue to grow they also need these tires as well." Meeting that demand is key. The output from North America is responsible for about one-third of global sales for French parent company Michelin, which recently raised its long-term profit goal, believing the slowdown in the world's economies will be brief. Conway Gittens, Reuters