Counties and smaller cities around Chattanooga are magnets for manufacturing

Staff file photo / Michael Leonard, left, and Brett Spurgeon work with a tire at Nokian Tyres on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Dayton, Tenn.

When Tennessee's economic developers began recruiting Finland-based Nokian Tyres, they started with 80 sites.

Among the reasons the tire maker decided to put its only plant in the United States in Dayton, Tennessee, a few years ago was the large flat greenfield site, nearby U.S. 27, and proximity to a population center such as Chattanooga, according to Nokian.

The $360 million Southeast Tennessee facility opened in fall 2019. Nokian plans to hire about 400 employees by 2023 to produce tires and oversee operations at the Dayton factory. Officials eventually want to make as many as 4 million tires per year at the facility.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who made a part of his election campaign the effort to bring more development to rural counties, said during the $360 million factory's opening that it will "change the landscape of this community for a long time."