A company from the Czech Republic will open its first North American manufacturing facility in Charles City, Iowa.

C.G.S. will make tires for tractors and combines at the former Winnebago Industries plant and Governor Chet Culver says up to 159 people will be employed at the facility. “It’s really going to be a great shot in the arm for the community of Charles City and another sign of economic progress and job creation here in Iowa,” Culver says. 

The state has extended $924,000 to the company to help retool the plant.  C.G.S. plans to spend almost $44 million to reconfigure the facility and company executives hope to being tire production by January 1, 2012. The governor says this deal has been in the works for a while.

“I actually met in my office several months ago with representatives from this company who had come all the way from the Czech Republic to meet with me and once again we were able to find common ground and create good-paying jobs,” Culver says.

The package of state incentives includes tax breaks for some of the materials being used in retooling the plant and Culver says those incentives were a key factor in luring the company to choose Iowa as its first North American outpost.

“We have some of the most competitive incentives from the state, through the Department of Economic Development,” Culver says. “We’re also helping in terms of training and preparing the workforce that will work in that plant.”

The company pledges to pay workers at the Charles City plant a wage that’s higher than the average wage in the area, one of the requirements for qualifying for the state assistance. Culver says the wage rate will be at least $15 an hour.

“Whether those employees have a whole lot of experience or not, they’re going to be guaranteed a good wage and good opportunity for their families,” Culver says. 

C.G.S. Tyres is based in Prague. The company operates four production facilities in Europe, with a workforce of 2800.  Officials from the Czech company were at the Farm Progress Show in Boone this morning, holding a “signing ceremony” with Governor Culver to formalize the agreement to open the facility in Charles City. 

The company’s chief executive officer says Iowa is “central” to the company’s “North America strategy” and he hopes tire production begins in Charles City by January 1, 2012.  The company will market tires made in Charles City under the “Mitas” and “Continental” brand names. 

In August of 2008 Winnebago closed the Charles City plant, putting 270 people out of work. Smaller motorhomes, built on a van chassis, were made in the facility.