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Posted on: Wednesday - Mar 29, 2017

The year was 1973. Richard Nixon was president, the World Trade Center officially opened its doors, and the first handheld mobile phone was created – a device that would probably be unrecognizable today. Polyester was the material of choice and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” was No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s top songs of the year.

But for Darrell Crossland and Jim Cummings, 1973 holds a memory not so well-known. It was the year they both began their careers at Bridgestone – a relationship that’s 43 years strong.

“I was twenty years old,” Crossland recalled. “I started April 6, 1973 and was hired in the warehouse. I worked in the warehouse for twenty-four years, then moved to two different departments before I transferred to where I am now.”

Less than a year prior, the La Vergne facility began as a Firestone plant. When Bridgestone bought the plant, it became the very first tire plant in the nation for Bridgestone. Today, the Bridgestone Americas family of enterprises includes more than 50 production facilities and 55,000 employees throughout the Americas.

Crossland and Cummings work in separate areas of the plant, but have grown to know each other over the years. Cummings works in the division that makes the bead and filler that goes into the tire itself. He is also in charge of monitoring the quality of the products made. Crossland is responsible for storing and locating inventory. To do this, he services four machines total and is required to FIFO (First In, First Out) his material. Crossland also makes sure to keep each of his machines supplied to support the continuous production. 

“It’s not often you’ll find a company with a team that has been with it for twenty years, or even thirty years. But we have several with forty years and that’s something we’re really proud of,” said Sean Kelley, Bridgestone La Vergne plant manager. Kelley has been with Bridgestone for 27 years. “We have a strong, dedicated workforce that helps us produce a safe, high-quality product each and every day. And what’s better is that when you’ve worked with people for that long, you become connected and close-knit, like family.”

The team at the La Vergne facility produces 5,800 tires per day. In addition to manufacturing tires, the plant also produces a mixing compound that is used at the La Vergne facility as well as several others throughout the U.S.

Darrell Crossland
Jim Cummings
Jim Cummings

Bridgestone Corporation, headquartered in Tokyo, is the world’s largest tire and rubber company. In addition to tires for use in a wide variety of applications, Bridgestone also manufactures a broad range of diversified products, including industrial rubber, chemical products and sporting goods. Its products are sold in over 150 nations and territories around the world. 

Headquartered in Nashville, Bridgestone Americas (BSA) has been in Tennessee for 36 years. This year, the company will move its headquarters from its current location near the Nashville International Airport to a new 514,000 square foot, 30-story high-rise building in downtown Nashville. 

When we spoke with Darrell and Jim, two key themes kept coming up. They both expressed numerous times how well they’re treated at Bridgestone and how focused they are on making a safe and reliable product.

“Safety is first and foremost. We make tires for large trucks, so I want to make sure the tires can handle that type of heavy load,” Cummings said. “Any way I can help improve the product, production, quality or safety, I’m all for it. Making products that keep people safe, while emphasizing worker safety is important to all of us.”

“This place has been really good to me, and I’m proud of the fact that I help make products in Tennessee that are used all over the world,” Crossland added. “You get a real sense of pride when you see a car driving down the road with Bridgestone tires and know that your hard work plays such an important role in people’s everyday lives.”

Perhaps Bridgestone is, in fact, too good of a place to work. When asked if they plan on retiring any time soon, Cummings said, “Work is my hobby, and I plan on being here at least another ten or fifteen years. Bridgestone makes a good product that people need, so as long as you make a good product, people are going to buy it. That’s what we strive for: to continue to make our good product even better.” 

This is the first profile in the new Tennessee Makers series. Tennessee Makers focuses on the people behind all of the exceptional products, services and ideas created in Tennessee.