By Denna Bowman
The Ballymena plant of a world renowned tyres manufacturer is celebrating 40 years of operation.
It is four decades since the first tyres rolled off the production line for Michelin, commencing a proud journey for what is now the only tyre-producing site in Ireland.
From humble beginnings in 1969, the Raceview Road plant has grown steadily to incorporate 112 acres and now employs over 1,000 members of staff.
The durability of the plant is all the more remarkable in light of the ongoing economic crisis, with no redundancies among permanent employees despite the current downturn.
One member of staff is something of a permanent fixture, having started as an apprentice way back in September 1969.
Jim Crawford, now site services manager with the company, said he has witnessed a “lot of changes” in his four decades of employment.
The 57-year-old, who can remember the factory when it was still a “building site”, said: “There have been massive changes in technology and back in those days when the factory was getting up and running we had the capability of making just over 1,000 tyres with roughly 1,000 people.
“We now have the same number of people and can produce 4,000 tyres a day.”
Factory manager Graham Whitehurst said everyone associated with Michelin locally was “very proud” of their achievements.
“The fact we have been here for four decades is testament to the success and durability of the Michelin brand, our collective will to deliver quality products and service and, most of all, the calibre, loyalty and hard work of our employees who are the life force of this site,” he said.