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Giti Tire, now open in Green, is sixth tire tech center for Akron region

10/10/2014

Singapore company Giti opens research, development center in Green, Akron-area’s sixth. Local talent pool and polymer programs are draw

The Akron area’s newest tire technical center is up and running.

Giti Tire, a $3.8 billion Singapore company and by some measures a global top 10 tire maker, which announced last year it was locating its first U.S. tech center in the greater Akron area, has opened its offices in Green. Giti moved into a corporate park building off Boettler Oaks Drive directly behind the Giant Eagle Market District supermarket.

Giti has aggressive plans for the Americas. This past summer, the company said it will build its first U.S. tire-making plant, a $560 million factory, in South Carolina. Tire brands include GT Radial, Giti, Primewell and Runway.

“We are keen on expanding into this market,” said Hamid Aboutorabi, director of the Green research and development facility.

“Our task here is to develop tires for the North American market, replacement and original equipment,” Aboutarabi said. “We right now are developing tires for this market.”

The Giti Tire center brings the number of Akron-area tire maker technical centers to six; the others belong to Goodyear, Bridgestone Americas, and Korean tire companies Kumho, Hankook and Nexen.

David Schwarz, vice president of marketing and strategic planning for Akron-based Smithers Group, said tire makers are attracted to the Akron area for the knowledge and skills here that includes the University of Akron and its polymer science and polymer engineering programs. Smithers, among other things, provides tire testing and consulting services to the tire industry.

“There’s a strong technical knowledge base here because of the [tire building] legacy, reinforced by the university polymer science programs,” Schwarz said.

Akron may no longer be the tire capital of the world, but it could claim to be the tire technical center capital, said Bob Ulrich, editor of Modern Tire Dealer magazine in Green.

“Giti is already a global tire manufacturer, but it wants to have a big presence in the United States,” Ulrich said. One of the ways to become a major player here is to open a U.S. technical center that focuses on products for the local market, he said. The expense of opening and operating a tech center shows how serious Giti is, he said.

“They are doing everything possible to become a major player in the United States,” Ulrich said. “They are absolutely putting their money where their mouth is. ... It’s very exciting. It is.”

The combination of a U.S. tech center and tire factory will benefit tire dealers as well by speeding up product delivery times, Ulrich said.

Aboutorabi started up the Giti facility a year ago, focusing on recruiting talent.

He previously worked at Kumho Tire’s technical center in Fairlawn and at Goodyear. He has a doctorate with a background in computational mechanics and modeling tires on a computer before they are built.

“We are now up to six people,” Aboutorabi said. “That’s the leadership team. We plan to grow. ... This is a very dynamic company.”

The Green office space is temporary, Aboutorabi said, adding that plans are to stay put for at least a couple of years. Giti has not said what it wants to do beyond that, he said. “We feel fortunate to have found this place,” he said.

Being in the Akron area makes a lot of sense, he said.

“This is where the talent is,” Aboutorabi said. “Akron is technically the hub for the tire industry. There’s a lot of expertise in the area.”

In addition to a significant employee talent pool, the Akron area also is home to prominent laboratories, the University of Akron’s polymer programs and other facilities that tire technical centers rely upon, he said.

“It’s very convenient,” he said.

Tech centers do not need to be located near tire factories, he said.

The Green facility brings the number of Giti tech centers to five globally, including one that just opened in Hanover, Germany; all told, the tech centers have about 600 of Giti’s 32,000 global employees.

Giti has eight tire factories, not counting the one it intends to build in South Carolina. Besides designing tires for U.S. consumption, the Green tech center also compares Giti Tire’s products against its competitors.

“We have a full complement of tires, car and truck,” Aboutorabi said. “We have tires for every taste, every habit.”

Giti Tire’s culture makes it truly a global company, not just an Asian company, Aboutorabi said. That is in large part because of how Singapore has been influenced by its history as an English colony, he said.

“It’s exciting to start something from the ground up,” Aboutorabi said.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]

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