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Times Reports Bridgestone/Firestone to Close Tire Plant at Center of Huge Recall

The New York Times , the newspaper od record reported tofday that Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said today that it planned to close one of its biggest tire factories. The factory, in Decatur, Ill., was singled out last August when Firestone recalled about 6.5 million tires after growing concerns about crashes of Ford Explorers equipped with its products. About 1,500 employees, mostly union workers and many with more than 20 years of experience, will probably lose their jobs. The closing of the plant, which can produce more than seven million tires a year and accounts for 10 percent of the company's production, underscores just how difficult business has become for Bridgestone/Firestone, which is facing an industrywide downturn and persistent questions about the safety of its tires. Company officials said the decision to close the factory was driven solely by economics and not because Decatur had once been cited as a major source of problem tires. The company said that it had too much capacity and that Decatur was the oldest of its eight plants and would be the most expensive to upgrade. Firestone spent about $60 million in improvements for the sprawling plant in recent years.