Nokian Tyres raises starting pay at Dayton, Tennessee, plant and more business news

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The curing presses are seen inside the tire manufacturing plant at Nokian Tyres in Dayton, Tenn.

Nokian Tyres raising starting pay at plant

Nokian Tyres' factory in Dayton, Tennessee, is hiring more production operators, and it's boosting its starting wage, according to the tire maker.

The company has put its starting rate at between $16 and $20 per hour, depending on experience, qualifications and shift, Nokian said on Tuesday.

Nokian isn't pursuing a specific number of workers at this time, but looking to keep its pipeline full of qualified employees, a spokesman said.

At full capacity in coming years, Nokian plans to build as many as 4 million tires annually at the Dayton factory and employ up to 400 workers. The Finnish-based tire maker currently employs about 300 workers.

The company hired about 150 workers in the first half of this year, which was its biggest growth phase since opening the factory in September 2019.

"As our factory and company continue to grow, we're ready to invite more people to be part of our team," said Dayton Factory Human Resources Manager Blake Markham.

Interested candidates can apply at

Westinghouse exec says not guilty of nuclear fraud

A business executive charged in the aftermath of a failed multibillion-dollar project to build two nuclear reactors in South Carolina pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday.

Jeffrey A. Benjamin was a former senior vice president for Westinghouse Electric Co., the lead contractor to build two new reactors at the V.C. Summer plant. South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. parent company SCANA Corp. and state-owned utility company Santee Cooper spent nearly $10 billion on the project before halting construction in 2017 after Westinghouse's bankruptcy.

Benjamin now faces 16 felony charges, including multiple counts of fraud, according to an indictment.

His lawyer, William Sullivan, told The State newspaper that federal prosecutors "have brought baseless charges against Mr. Benjamin, relying on a witness who has already admitted under oath to falsely accusing Mr. Benjamin."

"This case is an abuse of the grand jury process, and it will fail," Sullivan said before the court hearing.

Benjamin, who supervised all nuclear projects for Westinghouse, received information throughout 2016 and 2017 that the two V.C. Summer reactors were behind schedule and over budget, prosecutors said.

But he repeatedly told SCANA and Santee Cooper that the project was on schedule, hiding the construction's true timeline from the utility companies, the indictment alleges.

He was fired from Westinghouse in March 2017, shortly before the company filed for bankruptcy.

The collapse of the V.C. Summer project spawned multiple lawsuits, some by ratepayers who said company executives knew the project was doomed and misled consumers and regulators as they petitioned for a series of rate hikes. The failure cost ratepayers and investors billions and left nearly 6,000 people jobless.

Railroad merger is in jeopardy

Canadian National's $33.6 billion deal to acquire Kansas City Southern railroad is in jeopardy after federal regulators rejected a key part of the plan Tuesday and opened the door for a competing $31 billion offer from Canadian Pacific Railway.

The Surface Transportation Board said Canadian National won't be able to use a voting trust to acquire Kansas City Southern and hold the railroad while the board reviews the overall deal. It wasn't immediately clear whether Kansas City Southern will want to move forward with the deal without a voting trust that would allow shareholders to get paid before the board embarks on its lengthy review of the deal. Plus, Kansas City Southern is now free to accept CP's offer, which already has regulatory approval to move forward.

The Surface Transportation Board said the " proposed voting trust is not consistent with the public interest standard under the Board's merger regulations."

Now that regulators have rejected Canadian National's plan to use a voting trust, Kansas City Southern is due to receive a $1 billion breakup fee.

Canadian Pacific originally announced an agreement to buy KCS for roughly $275 per share in March, but Canadian National intervened with its $325 per share offer and eventually won over Kansas City Southern's board in May after sweetening its offer to include more stock and to cover the breakup fee Kansas City Southern would owe to CP.

Google again delays return to office for workers

Google is once again postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-January, in addition to requiring all employees to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

The highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, leading companies to delay or scrap return-to-office plans after nearly two years of people working from home.

CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post Tuesday that Google is delaying its global return to offices until Jan. 10. After that, he said the company will let countries and locations determine when to end voluntary work-from-home policies "based on local conditions, which vary greatly across our offices."

He also promised a 30-day heads up before workers are expected back in the office. This is the second time in little over a month that Google has delayed return plans - the last time was in late July, when it also announced its vaccine mandate. Google, which is headquartered in Mountain View, California, has more than 130,000 employees worldwide.

- Compiled by Dave Flessner