More than 2300 visitors from the local community attended the open day to mark the event which included guided tours of the factory, an exhibition on the history of the plant and an official ceremony.
Local dignitaries attending included Mr. Jean-Michel Bedecarrax, sub prefect of Béthune and Mr. Stéphane Saint-André, Mayor of Béthune. Bridgestone Europe was represented by Mr. Ryutaro Ishii, Senior Vice President Manufacturing, and Mr. Yoshihiko Fujimoto, Vice President HR Europe & Corporate Affairs.
When it opened in 1961, the Béthune plant brought vital investment and employment to a region of northern France that was hit hard by mining closures. Over the 50 years Béthune has produced more than 241 million tyres and employed 8700 people, some of them from three generations of the same family. The facility is now the largest employer in Béthune and the third largest manufacturing employer in the Pas-de-Calais region.
“We are delighted that so many local residents came to mark the occasion; it reflects the important role that the Béthune plant plays in the community” said Mr. Bruno Capron, Managing Director, Bridgestone France Manufacturing.
Initially the Béthune plant produced 4000 Firestone tyres a day and employed 640 people. Capacity expanded steadily and reached a daily output of 12,500 tyres by 1973. In 1991 the plant produced its first Bridgestone tyre, following Bridgestone’s worldwide acquisition of Firestone. Production increased to 22,000 tyres a day.
Today 75% of production is oriented towards high-performance passenger-car tyres, including winter tyres. With a workforce of 1300, production capacity has reached 25,000 tyres a day.
About Bridgestone EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)
Bridgestone EMEA, with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest tyre and rubber company. Bridgestone EMEA operates in more than 60 countries and has over 18200 employees. Across the region it has 14 tyre and tyre related plants, a major R&D Centre and a proving ground. Bridgestone EMEA’s premium tyres are sold in Europe, Middle East, Africa and globally.