Report: Tire maker to build plant in Nashville area

Site not yet known; spokeswoman says No. 7 industry player, state in last-minute negotiations

The world's seventh-largest tire maker is in advanced talks to build a big plant in the Nashville area, according to an overnight report from Korea.

The Yonhap news agency reported that Hankook Tire Group executives have narrowed their search for a U.S. manufacturing outpost to Middle Tennessee after also considering sites in Georgia, South Carolina and elsewhere. The company plans to build a factory with the capacity to produce 10 million tires per year. (See the full Yonhap report here.) The facility would be the company's eighth, joining plants in Korea, China, Indonesia and Hungary.

It's not clear yet just how large an investment Hankook is weighing or where in the Nashville region the company might build. (The State Route 840 area south of Lebanon, the Interstate 24 corridor in Rutherford County and areas off Interstate 65 both north and south of town all could accommodate the project.) But by way of comparison, Bridgestone Americas in mid-2011 said it would invest $135 million to expand the capacity of its South Carolina factory by 1.7 million tires via a project that encompassed 266,000 square feet. Scaling that to the 10-million-tire capacity Hankook is said to be planning, the company's investment would be about $800 million and its plant's size would top 1.5 million square feet.

Hankook's CEO recently said his team planned to make a decision on its big U.S. project by the end of the year. The new facility would be an important site for the company, which now has a total annual production capacity of 94 million tires. Executives have said they want to grow sales by 6 percent annually, which would outpace the industry's growth rate by two points.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.