By MARY KAYE DAVIS
MT. VERNON — “Not wanting to take anything for granted,” State Rep. Kurt Granberg is meeting with Illinois Environmental Protection Agency representatives next week to make sure a permit the local Continental Tire North America has applied for is granted.
Last week CTNA Plant Manager Hank Eisenga said the permit was the last piece of the puzzle needed to move ahead with the construction of the plant’s expansion which will house its new mixer.
Granberg said Friday he doesn’t anticipate there will be a problem with the issuance of the permit, he just wants to make sure it will be issued. Granberg also submitted a letter to the EPA urging the agency to “approve the proposed expansion because of its enormous benefit to the creation of hundreds of new jobs to the Southern Illinois economy.”
He said he’s also personally seeking support for the permit because of the recent Whirlpool Corp. announcement that Maytag Herrin Laundry Products will lay off 1,047 employees and he wants to make sure CTNA will be allowed to expand and add job numbers.
“(The closing of Maytag) is a tragedy,” Granberg said. “Similar closings are something that the area has been experiencing the last 20 years in the form of acquisitions and mergers. We are losing good corporate citizens. Since many companies are owned nationally or internationally, they just don’t care what happens to Southern Illinois people or our region. Many times the local managers don’t even have an idea something is going to happen to their company.”
Granberg said he will stress to EPA the fact that CTNA is committed to being “environmentally responsible.”
“Continental Tire has provided the EPA with a screening analysis verifying the project is in compliance with national air quality standards,” Granberg said. “When you look at that in combination with the facility's impact on the local economy, I really believe this project is worth fighting for. I definitely stand behind this proposed expansion and I will do whatever it takes to make sure Continental Tire and its workers can succeed.”
The proposed CTNA expansion includes the installation of new rubber mixers, increased capacity of existing mixers, 10 new tire-curing presses and other equipment changes needed to help increase production.
The EPA has already approved the company’s proposal to add organo-silane coupling agents to the rubber formation process, a move Granberg says will improve tire safety and vehicle fuel economy.
Eisenga did not return a call regarding Granberg’s efforts.
“We’re all in this together,” Granberg said. “While we are aggressively working to bring new businesses into Southern Illinois to replace manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas, we also need to give strong support to those businesses and workers that have stayed in our region. I will continue working with Continental Tire and other local businesses to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive.”