East Texas Community Stands Behind Plant's Success

Tyler community leaders breathed a sigh of relief this week when they learned Kelly-Springfield Tire has a chance to save 500 jobs from elimination.

Goodyear Tire agreed to upgrade the plant's equipment, if Kelly-Springfield maintains their production output with 150 fewer employees. Plant officials say if the plan works, it could save 500 jobs later this year.

The company's survival means just as much to local business and non profits who rely on Kelly-Springfield for funding. The plant is an integral part of Tyler's United Way and Goodwill Industries.

Dozens of handicapped East Texans working at Goodwill will take home a paycheck this week, because Kelly Springfield pays them to strip their leftover tires.

The plant's economic impact is also felt at Tyler Junior College, where Haley Prater (18) pays for her tuition with Kelly Springfield scholarship money. Haley's father has worked at the plant for 15 years. She's among ten other TJC students receiving endowments.

"I get $1,000 per year," Haley says. "It really does help a lot. For middle class, working parents it's hard to send a child to school for four years, especially if they plan on transferring to a major university."

But the company's operations support more than students and non profits. Records show Kelly Springfield paid more than $1.6 million in taxes to Smith County last year. And they spent 2.4 million dollars buying products and services from local businesses within a 100 mile radius.

The company will have to let 150 people go this year, but plant officials expect attrition will take care of most of those jobs.

Kerri Panchuk, reporting.