KITCHENER — AirBoss Rubber Compounding and Green Arc Tire Remanufacturing have formed a partnership to produce three million environmentally friendly tires a year, creating 20 jobs in Kitchener and 340 in nearby St. Marys.
The sprawling AirBoss plant on Glasgow Street will make 24 million pounds of rubber compound a year for the Green Arc operation in St. Marys. The rubber compound will be turned into new treads for winter tires that are produced from old tires.
“It is a great operation and we welcome this partnership,” John Tomins, vice-president of sales and marketing for AirBoss, said at a news conference in Kitchener on Monday.
The rubber compound produced in Kitchener will be used to make three million re-built winter tires a year in Green Arc’s factory in St. Marys.
“It is the rubber compounding that ensures Green Arc tires are built to last,” said Mike DiCenzo, chief executive officer of Green Arc.
Less energy and oil are consumed when old tires are re-used rather than recycled. That’s why Green Arc calls its product eco-tires.
“We are making environmentally-friendly tires in a process that uses far less oil and energy than regular tires,” DiCenzo said. “We are giving tires a second life, by re-using 80 per cent of the original tire components.”
The plant in St. Marys, which will be the largest tire remanufacturing facility in North America, will begin production this spring. It is expected to generate $100 million a year in wages, taxes and spinoffs for the agricultural town of 7,000, the area and the province.
The massive AirBoss factory imports one million pounds of natural rubber each month to produce one million pounds of rubber compound every day. The plant operates seven days a week and currently employs 200 workers on 12-hour shifts.
“I am absolutely astounded by that figure of one million pounds a day,” Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr said. “Congratulations on this partnership.”
The jobs the venture is creating are a welcome addition to the St. Marys area economy.
“We are very excited about Green Arc coming,” said St. Marys Mayor Steve Grose. “I can hardly wait to see that first tire come off the line.”
The AirBoss plant has a storied past and is the last remaining operation in Kitchener’s once proud rubber industry. For decades, Kitchener was known as the rubber capital of Canada with companies such as B.F. Goodrich, Kaufman Footwear and Dominion Tire employing thousands.
The AirBoss plant, which runs along Strange Street, opened as Dominion Tire and produced tires for almost 80 years. It closed in 1992 when it was operating as Uniroyal Goodrich. AirBoss, headquartered in Newmarket, Ont., bought the factory in 1997.
AirBoss imports coagulated sap from rubber trees in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Ivory Coast and Central America. The natural rubber, which comes in 50-pound sacks, is dumped into an enormous, three-storey high mixer, along with 15 other chemicals and ingredients. About four minutes later the rubber compound comes out of the mixer and is rolled out on mills.
“We say we are in the logistics business with four minutes of action,” Tomins said.
The strips and mats of rubber compound are made to order and shipped all over the world, including to the Alberta oilsands, diamond mines in the Arctic, Mongolia, Ghana, North Dakota and the Atacama Desert in South America.
Mining companies use the rubber compound made by AirBoss for giant tires and conveyor belts.
AirBoss of America Corp. also has operations in Quebec, North Carolina and Vermont. It also makes gas masks and footwear that protects soldiers from chemical and radiation attacks for up to 48 hours.
Last October, it acquired Flexible Products Co., a Michigan-based manufacturer of anti-vibration products for the auto industry.
AirBoss, a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, had sales of $236.3 million US last year.