Bridgestone plans major rubber research lab in Mesa - East Valley Tribune: Business

Bridgestone plans major rubber research lab in Mesa

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Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:00 am

The Bridgestone Corp. has chosen Mesa for a new research and development facility that will focus on making tire-grade rubber from a native desert shrub.

Bridgestone, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, plans to bring 32 jobs to the area with an average wage of $75,000.

Despite the modest number of jobs, Bridgestone’s advanced research will draw international attention, said Chris Camacho, executive vice present of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

“This is going to be one of their top R&D facilities. This will house their next-generation work,” Camacho said. “The lure of having a top international company located in Mesa is a big deal for us and a big deal for the market.”

The company chose the Mesa location because of the area’s educated workforce and a warm climate that’s suitable for growing the Guayule bush. Researchers at the facility will develop ways to make rubber from Guayule, which produces natural rubber in its roots and bark.

Bridgestone considered southern California, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico because Guayule grows in the Southwest. Once the company selected a farm near Eloy, the far south East Valley was identified as a place to locate the lab, Camacho said.

The lab will be a multi-million investment for Bridgestone. Camacho said he wasn’t authorized to disclose the exact amount. A Bridgestone representative did not respond to an inquiry for comment.

The 50,000-square-foot facility will be built near Pecos and Mountain roads in southeast Mesa. Groundbreaking is expected in early 2013 and the facility should be open in 2014. Trail rubber production is estimated to start in 2015.

Guayule has been researched as an alternate source of rubber for a century. Bridgestone said in a statement that the research is a response to the growing demand for natural rubber, and that the Mesa facility could lead to a breakthrough in the rubber industry.

The lab is in an area Mesa is branding as the Power Knowledge Corridor, where the city is establishing a cluster of high-tech companies, research, aerospace development and higher education.

Mesa Vice Mayor Scott Somers said Bridgestone’s lab will bring exactly the kind of engineering and technology jobs the city wants in the area. Somers represents southeast Mesa and said many of the expected jobs in the corridor will involve research, defense work and technology development that will create related jobs across Arizona.

He anticipates the presence of a company like Bridgestone will help lure other employers in the Power corridor and around the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

“It just screams the importance of the Gateway area and why we really need all hands on deck for economic development in this region,” Somers said.

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