Nokian Tyres Expands Production and Hiring, Creates Empowered Workforce

By Wes Boling

Chattanooga has been thriving in job growth and economic development over the last year, and Nokian Tyres Inc. has been no stranger to this. In 2020, the manufacturing company’s net sales were approximately $1.6 billion, and it employed some 4,600 people.

Inspired by their Scandinavian heritage, Nokian Tyres develops and manufactures premium tires for people who value safety and sustainability, and crafts innovative products for passenger cars, trucks and heavy machinery that give you peace of mind in all driving conditions.  

In January, Nokian Tyres launched a phased recruiting campaign, with the first one seeking approximately 80 workers. The company continues to accept and evaluate applications for the nearly 150 positions it's aiming to fill by June, as its new workers will enable them to add third and fourth shifts to help meet the growing demand for products in the North American market -- including the Nokian Tyres One, an all-season passenger tire the company launched in January. Since its latest hiring push, Nokian Tyres has hired more than 50 workers at its Dayton, Tennessee factory. 

“We have received an impressive number of applications since announcing the creation of nearly 150 jobs,” says Dayton Factory HR Operations Manager Blake Markham. “Nokian Tyres strives to be an employer of choice in Southeast Tennessee by providing a safe, sustainable work environment where our team members can grow, and we are eager to add high-quality candidates to our team.”

Why People Love Working for Nokian Tyres

At Nokian, employees are exposed to some of the most advanced production machinery and processes in the tire industry, and plus Nokian fosters an environment that helps employees develop professionally. Perks include competitive pay and benefits, a wellness center, a green space and even a sauna.

Meet Tracy Hickey, who is helping Nokian Tyres’ factory (and her career) grow

When Tracy Hickey heard Nokian Tyres was opening a factory in her home of Rhea County, she was intrigued. But if she's being honest, she wasn't certain she'd belong.

"For Nokian Tyres to come here, that was big -- it was huge! And actually, I did not see myself here because I just thought it was too big for me ... is there a place there for me?" she says. "With it being so big, could I be a part of it?"

Factory leadership thought so, and Hickey joined the launch team at its inception in April 2019, taking a role as a Production Operator.

"When the opportunity was presented, I felt like it was meant for me to be here," she says.

Fast forward two years. Now, Hickey's curiosity and commitment have earned a robust reward: a promotion last September to the role of Production Team Leader overseeing various aspects of the components process.

"It was surreal to get the news," Hickey says. "To be promoted just over a year after getting here, it's just like, 'is all this real?'" 

Hickey and her cohort of launch team members have a saying -- they've been here "since red clay," the muddy landscape that dominated the factory campus as the buildings were erected. Just like that Southeast Tennessee bedrock, she and her colleagues helped form a foundation for the growth that's happening now; the factory aims to produce as many as a million tires in 2021.

"It's been almost like watching a flower bloom," Hickey says. "You plant it as a seed, then you see it coming up and now it's all blossoming. We started here in trailers doing classroom training, we went to Russia and then to come back here ... we all fell into place. It has been a great experience."

Between her promotion and the employee-driven features at the factory, including robust safety policies, a wellness center and even a sauna, Hickey feels like the company is invested in her success.

"It's all gorgeous when you come through that gate. It makes you feel like they value us as people. They're giving us something to better us, which will benefit them as well."

There's no getting around the challenges her team faces. The Dayton Factory will be a major factor in the company's growth in North America, with ripple effects washing up on global shores. But as the team prepares to expand to third and fourth shifts in the coming months, Hickey says the culture remains upbeat.

"We're close. Many of us came in here together and have close bonds, and then you add the people who came on after the launch to be part of the four shifts, they're positive," she says. "A lot of people are excited to see everything come together."

Hickey is aware that the challenges and opportunities ahead will continue to test the team. But she also relishes the opportunity to reflect on the growth that has transpired to this point -- and the promise it suggests for an even brighter future.

"Being able to come in and know you're being appreciated...you feel like what you do is not falling on the wayside. Someone is looking at you and letting you know they appreciate you. It makes you want to come to work ... to do better, to be better. I've gotten that from being part of this family."

Does she ever wonder if she'd have been better off passing on the chance to apply back in 2019?

"No regrets at all," she says. "It has been an amazing journey."


Meet Brian Hale, who left a good manufacturing job for Nokian Tyres

Brian Hale was happy. The Rhea County resident worked as a quality engineer at an automotive factory 45 minutes from home. He wasn’t looking to change jobs.

“When I first heard about the Nokian Tyres factory coming to Dayton, I thought, ‘that’s cool, it’s gonna be good for the area and close to home,’” Hale says. “But I had a very good job handling some big projects and was having a lot of fun.”

But he kept hearing about how clean, high-tech and sustainable the $360 million tire production facility was going to be. Eventually, he applied to be a quality engineer on the factory’s launch team. Nearly two years later, he hasn’t looked back.

“I had always thought I’d love to be part of a plant launch and use my skill set to take things to the next level,” Hale says. “And my drive time went from 45 minutes to about 10 minutes. That was also a huge plus for me.”

Nokian Tyres opened the Dayton Factory in 2019 and is ramping up production there, with full capacity of approximately four million tires per year expected once ramp-up is complete. The global tire company is adding nearly 150 workers to its team in the first half of the year, and candidates can apply at NokianTires.com/DaytonFactory. Hale has deeply enjoyed contributing his skills to the growing team.

“When you walk in here and see the latest and greatest equipment … even on our bad days, my departments are cleaner than the better factories I worked at,” Hale says. “And I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck saying, ‘do this exact thing this exact way.’ What I have is support from leadership to help define, measure and analyze the issue. We have the opportunity to make some really cool things happen here.”

As the factory’s workforce has grown, Hale has seen team members grow, too.

“We have some very bright people, and I’m seeing them do well and apply for promotions. Some of them are getting that opportunity. To have the confidence to pull from within is a huge deal for me. I do not want to work for a company that only hires from the outside and doesn’t take its production operators very seriously.”

Nokian Tyres holds its products to a high standard, and Hale is a critical line of defense in the production process. His perspective has given him extreme faith in the company’s tires – and in the quality of his workplace.

“I have high confidence in the products we’re making. We have growing pains like anywhere else, but we also have a lot of good people who want us to succeed and are helping us one step at a time.”

Hale may have been satisfied at his previous company. But now, he couldn’t be happier he gave Nokian Tyres’ Dayton factory a chance.

“What I like the most is the freedom I have to make things better,” he says. “What I wanted and what Nokian Tyres wanted came together and couldn’t have made a better puzzle piece.”


More About Nokian Tyres Inc.

Nokian's growing workforce will enable the factory to expand production volume as Nokian Tyres seeks to satisfy rising demand for its products in North America. By 2023, Nokian plans to hire as many as 400 employees to produce tires and oversee operations at the Dayton factory, with the goal of eventually producing up to four million tires per year at the facility.

Interested candidates can visit NokianTires.com/DaytonFactory to apply. Open positions include maintenance specialists, production operators and other roles
overseeing and executing tire production at one of the most high-tech, sustainable factories in the industry.

For more about Nokian Tyres, visit the website here