This year, one of America’s most famous brands celebrates its 125th anniversary. Goodyear, which makes tires for everything from cars to airplanes to lunar rovers, celebrated its 125th anniversary in style, including flying its famous airship over its hometown of Akron, Ohio.
The company’s deep ties to Akron are evident through more than a century of business. We recently spoke with Laura Duda, her senior vice president and chief communications officer, about her history and what other manufacturers can learn from it.
Beginning: Duda said Goodyear was founded in 1898 when FA’s “Frank” Seiberling purchased two vacant factories in then-small downtown Akron.
- The company brought thousands of jobs to the area known as Middlebury, built a new headquarters on Innovation Way in 2014 just a few blocks from its previous headquarters, and continues to operate there more than a century later. There is.
- Around the same time, the company built its largest innovation center and one of its three airship bases in Akron. The Akron facility also includes a factory that manufactures racing tires, a test track that helps develop and bring innovative products to market, and more, all in the location the company first called home.
Grow together: Duda said Goodyear is proud to have contributed to the expansion of the city of Akron throughout its history, in addition to creating and retaining jobs in Akron.
- Seiberling himself developed a neighborhood called Goodyear Heights, which provided affordable housing for the company’s employees and remains a beloved historic district today.
- Meanwhile, the city’s first municipal bus system was built to transport the company’s workers to its downtown factories, and Goodyear’s early leaders created public parks in the surrounding counties.
- “It’s impossible to separate Akron’s history from Goodyear’s history,” Duda concluded.
Local recruitment: Since its inception, Goodyear has always prioritized local hiring and strived to ensure long and productive employee tenure, Duda said.
- In 1913, Goodyear’s first CEO, Paul Litchfield, established an early in-house training program called “Squadrons” to help employees learn new skills and advance their careers.today its descendants The program, known as the Sales Squad, is responsible for “attracting talent and reinvigorating the company,” Duda said.
- The program is a 10-week training program designed to prepare candidates for careers at Goodyear by providing experience in Goodyear’s retail, sales, manufacturing, and product development departments. Hiring new graduates for full-time positions.
- Goodyear also offers development programs across the company through learning centers that offer both in-person and take-home training resources.
- Finally, the company works with STEM programs in schools in the Akron area and across the country, sending engineers to teach students about Goodyear’s many rewarding career paths.
Still giving back: Today, Akron is an established city with significant infrastructure, and Goodyear remains a contributor to the city’s future.
- “It’s unusual to find an area of community support where Goodyear isn’t involved,” Duda said. “We are focused on building ‘safe, smart, sustainable communities.'” The company’s “safety” pillar includes a partnership with Akron Children’s Hospital, which helps people afford cars. We provide child seats for parents without children and bicycle helmets for older children. “Smart” projects include efforts to promote STEM careers for underrepresented students in Akron Public Schools.
- Meanwhile, because of Goodyear’s focus on sustainability, it is supporting the development of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the area, along with green spaces throughout the region.
airship: Of course, I couldn’t interview Goodyear without asking about airships.
- Yes, Duda has ridden one too, and she said the experience was “as amazing as you’d expect.”
- Akron also takes great pride in its airships, which can attract a lot of attention at charity auctions, and the company often donates vehicles. Riding two people on an airship “costs more than you expected,” Duda said.
The last word: It’s difficult to recreate the community bonds and goodwill built over more than a century, but Duda has some advice for manufacturing companies looking to the next 125 years. She advised that local leaders are proving to be very active in supporting efforts, as well as that a tremendous amount can be accomplished in local associations and chambers of commerce.
- Equally important, manufacturers need to know that their employees want this. [level of community engagement]” Duda said. “We’re hearing from some of the best talent we’re hiring, and even from our current employees, that it’s important to them. From a talent perspective, this is something everyone should consider.”
To learn more about Goodyear’s history, innovation, and plans for the future, check out the company’s fascinating documentary produced for its anniversary. 125 years of progress.