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Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / Shikela Ray, a tire building machine operator, works at a machine during the grand opening event for the Nokian Tyres production plant in Dayton, Tennessee.

Nokian Tyres has begun producing tires for commercial sale at its $360 million factory in Dayton, Tennessee, according to the company.

"The start of commercial production at the Dayton factory is a significant milestone for our customers and employees," said Nokian Tyres President and CEO Hille Korhonen.

The milestone took place on schedule, and the company plans to steadily increase volume throughout the year, the Finland-based tire maker said Monday. The company officially opened the facility at a ceremony last October.

Nokian Tyres made the first test tire at the facility on July 1, 2019, and continues to certify a growing number of tire models and sizes.

The 830,000-square foot complex is one of the most advanced tire production facilities in the industry, according to Nokian. The company will ultimately employ as many as 400 workers at the facility 40 miles north of Chattanooga. Currently, just over 100 team members work at the factory.

"The Dayton factory is a vital growth driver for us in North America, and we're glad it remains on track to deliver premium value to our customers and drivers," said Mark Earl, senior vice president of the Americas Mark. "It will enable us to shorten delivery lead times, satisfy rising demand for our products and help the Southeast Tennessee community grow in the process."

Nokian Tyres broke ground on the factory in September 2017. It is the company's third global production facility, joining factories in Nokia, Finland and Vsevolozhsk, Russia.

Founded and headquartered in Finland, Nokian Tyres invented the winter and all-weather tires and continues to craft premium products in all major passenger segments, including the all-season tire market. At the Dayton factory, the company aims to fill expanding North American demand and seize on opportunities in the all-season and all-weather segments. Nokian Tyres' regional headquarters office in Nashville and its sales team throughout the continent is helping to organize that growth process.

The start of commercial production is one of several milestones Nokian Tyres will celebrate this year. Later in 2020, it will dedicate a solar-powered administration building that will feature offices, meeting spaces, employee wellness facilities and even a sauna.

Also, the company is building a highly automated warehouse on the property that will store as many as 600,000 tires. The company is preparing to introduce new products for North American drivers in the coming months and years.

Nokian Tyres will maintain strict sustainability standards at the factory in order to minimize waste and emissions, the company said. Solar panels are being installed in the parking lot, and the company will recycle excess materials that result from production.

The solar array in the parking lot will generate 3 megawatts of electricity to be utilized at the facility. Last September, the company was selected to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the third consecutive year. Only the top 10% of the most sustainable listed companies in the world are included in the index, according to Nokian.

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