Czech-owned Mitas Tire Co. is busy cranking out tractor tires in its sparkling new, quiet and air-conditioned factory in Charles City, Iowa -- on the way to a production goal of 60,000 ag tires a year.
I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new plant -- located not far from the site of the Oliver Tractor factory which made the other green tractor for years in the town before it closed in the 1970s. In fact, some of the first tires made in the state-of-the-art Mitas plant were for one of its employee's old Oliver.
Unlike other plants making tires, the Mitas factory is quiet -- there are no "Hearing Protection Required" signs greeting visitors, it's air-conditioned (quite a feat considering tires are cured at several hundred degrees for nearly two hours at a time), and one barely notices any odors -- in a factory that uses raw rubber, sulfer and a host of other ingredients. Right now, Mitas has 6 tire presses running, and in full production will have 27 curing tires throughout the day.
The Mitas factory is a cooperative venture between Czech-owned Mitas (a name derived from one-time parent company Michelin and the Latin word Veritas (truth), and economic development organizations of Iowa. Officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony noted Mitas has factories in Serbia and the Czech Republic, but to meet the needs of global ag tire consumption the company needed to expand.
Initial talks with the powers that be in Russia looked promising, but years of hard feelings spawned by USSR occupation of Czechoslovakia and a business climate that didn't meet the requirements of Mitas caused the company to look to the U.S. for a place to manufacture its global products. Currently much of the production of the Iowa plant is aimed at OEMs who are shipping their tractors to Europe -- with tires recognized there for their toughness and quality. Additionally, Mitas tires from Charles City are going to Canada to "shoe" Versatile tractors for U.S. and global markets.
While tire making is a heavy industry, the new Charles City factory is a real surprise in its cleanliness, quietness and overall "easy breathing." All new equipment and all new infrastructure (in a former RV manufacturing building) make the place a clean, brightly lighted, and pleasant place to work. Engineering of the plant has taken energy conservation and EPA clean air rules into account, making the facility a showplace for "good neighbor" relations and regulatory compliance.
For more information, visit MITAS.