Bridgestone factory in Béthune: government statements “give hope”, reacts the mayor of the city

The Minister for Industry said Monday on LCP that the State is “ready to invest” alongside Bridgestone to “give a future to the site” of Bethune, threatened with closure.

“It gives hope, but we had not lost it, and I was going to say that it is in line with the commitments made at Béthune”, reacts Tuesday, October 12 on franceinfo Olivier Gacquerre, UDI mayor of Béthune (Pas-de-Calais), after the remarks Monday evening on LCP of Agnès Pannier-Runacher. The Minister for Industry assured that the State was “ready to invest” alongside Bridgestone for “give the site a future”, which the Japanese manufacturer announced to close last month. A new meeting between the government, unions and local elected officials is scheduled for Monday to explore alternative avenues to closing the site.

franceinfo: Are the minister’s statements able to reassure you?

Olivier Gacquerre: Yes, it gives hope, but we had not lost it and I was going to say that it is in line with the commitments made here in Béthune, during the ministerial visit and the meeting we had with elected officials. local, but also trade unions. I do not think that the local management is listening to the proposals that are made, because its roadmap is closure, and that we understand.

For us, the local interlocutor is not the right one, we must first see the European side, to study other scenarios, in particular that of maintaining an activity with higher added value.Olivier Gacquerre, Mayor of Béthuneto franceinfo

We made a commitment, Madam Minister, the President of the Hauts-de-France region Xavier Bertrand and myself, possibly to go to Japan to defend the case of Bridgestone France.

Do these scenarios require very large investments?

I do not have all the figures in mind and it is indeed the work that the Accenture firm must carry out, to give the ranges linked first to the investment and then to the plant adaptation plan. You have understood that you have to change the product, and then change the process, the manufacturing process, and therefore that all of this requires time and money. In Bari in Italy, in 2013, the Japanese management finally decided to stay put after the announcement of the closure of the Italian firm. In the aftermath, there was a discussion with, in particular, the Italian public authorities, which intervened to the tune of 40 to 50 million euros to modernize the production tool.

I think that when we look today at Béthune at the cost of the closure, both human, but also the logistical cost – that is to say the building part, land, pollution control and others – with a factory that has more than a kilometer long, I can tell you that it amounts to several tens, even hundreds of millions of euros. So, I think that between the cost of a closure, plus possibly the additional envelope of public money that could be placed next to it, all added up, we can in my opinion give ourselves the opportunity to redeploy a powerful tool and competitive at the Béthune site.

What then is missing to convince the group?

On the one hand, its desire to stay on the site, and above all, to redeploy its European activities. I understood that this was a European strategy and not just on the site located in Pas-de-Calais. Béthune has been, in my opinion, the object of arbitration for many years now, with a strategy of drying up, and finally, I think that it is more than two years that the Bridgestone group, in particular in Europe, had aim to close the site.

Béthune is today the deadliest of a long-term strategy accelerated by Covid-19 which does not facilitate the market on low value-added products, but it is not the coronavirus which caused the fall of Bethune.Olivier Gacquerre, Mayor of Béthuneto franceinfo

With hindsight, I believe that the company did not ultimately bet on the local industrial culture, and I think that at the European level, the director of Béthune did not sell the site well, neither did it. did not defend, to put it another way.

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