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Specialty Tires sees drop in sales to mining sector

| Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 1:48 p.m.
Bruce Siskawicz | The Dispatch
Mark S. Grant, Specialty Tires vice-president and general manager of manufacturing (left) gives Lt. Governor Jim Cawley a tour of the Specialty Tires plant in Indiana Tuesday.

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley toured Specialty Tires of America, Inc. in Indiana Tuesday afternoon, speaking with staff at the state's last remaining tire manufacturer.

The company has been based in Indiana since 1915 and makes specialty tires for a wide array of vehicles ranging from race cars, aircraft and agricultural vehicles to collector cars, industrial vehicles and underground mining equipment.

“We're into everything, and that's our strength: The diversity that we have, making products that are unique,” said the company's vice president and general manager of manufacturing, Mark Grant. “Specialty kind of describes everything that we do. We tend to go to the niche markets that the major competitors leave behind or don't go to because of the volumes or the specialty type of the product, but there's still a demand.”

Specialty Tires has seen a significant dip in orders for tires used in the mining industry, as much as 20 percent according to Cawley.

“Very rarely does everything peak at the same time. While one product line is increasing in sales, we'll have another product line that decreases,” Grant said. “On the whole it balances out and we remain profitable.”

Cawley said government regulations are partly to blame for the drop in demand for mining tires at Specialty Tire, which used $114,000 in state aid last year to upgrade and improve some of the equipment at its facility.

“I can't help but think that as we in Harrisburg, and partnering with local government with county commissioners who are here as well, that while we are all trying to create more job opportunities, that the policies of the current administration in Washington are really beating back those efforts,” Cawley said. “I can't help but think that if there was not, in fact, a war on coal – and that is what is going on with this administration – that not only would we not have seen that 20 percent decrease in sales in (Specialty Tires') deep mining division, we would have seen an increase as well.”

Cawley noted new carbon-emission standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency have impacted the mining industry and, in turn, businesses that supply the industry.

Specialty Tire has 378 employees, according to Grant, but could easily add more jobs if demand for its tires increased.

“We're not near capacity at what we're doing now,” Grant said. “We're poised for opportunities that may arise. When the economy took a downturn, we noticed it about a year ago in August and September, and we're seeing just a little bit of an uptick right now, but we don't know how long that will last.”

Cawley praised Specialty Tires for adapting to market changes, but he said the government should be trying to aid American businesses rather than enacting regulations which adversely affect them.

“The challenge has become greater over the last couple of years, but they're prepared to keep fighting to keep this business profitable, to keep employing the people of this region,” Cawley said. “But again, as I said, you can't help but feel that somehow we could make it at least a little easier for them.

“I'm hoping that maybe this message and messages like it all over the country are going to get down to Washington D.C., and maybe those guys will get on board too and recognize that we can make it easier and we can make it better for the private sector to create family-sustaining jobs.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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