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Mitas moves into North American tire production market with Charles City plant

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 03/28/2013 9:01 PM

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CHARLES CITY, Iowa —Mitas is a Czech-based manufacturer of off-road agricultural, industrial, and motorcycle tires, said Pavel Charvat, Mitas Tires North America president.

Its history dates to the 1930s, when tire production started in Prague, the then capital of Czechoslovakia, and in the Moravian city of Zlin.

Mitas has three plants in the Czech Republic, one in Serbia along with its new plant in Charles City. Mitas has an extensive international sales and distribution network operating in 14 countries. One in four new tractors and harvesters in Europe is fitted with tires produced by Mitas.

Charvat said that Mitas is one of the four biggest players globally in radial farm tires and one of the two biggest in Europe. Mitas is a major supplier of radial agricultural tires for new tractors and combines by John Deere, Case New Holland, Unverferth, Claas and AGCO Group.

"Since Mitas wanted to be an important global player, it had to move beyond the Czech Republic," Charvat said. "We acquired a plant in Serbia and then we started to look overseas, and the North American market is the single biggest farm market in the world. There is very big production of farming equipment. The decision was quite clear that we had to be part of the U.S. market with production. Transport of big tires is more about air transport than about tire transport."

About four years ago, Mitas began looking for a U.S. location visiting sites in Georgia, Texas, Kentucky and Charles City, the town which originally coined the word "tractor."

"The approach of Iowa government, county and Charles City officials was the most interesting, focused and supportive," Charvat said. "The second part of the decision was that the building (the former Winnebago facility) was just what we needed."

In the fall of 2010 Mitas bought the building and began converting it into a tire production facility.

Charvat said that people of Czech descent from Spillville and Protivin have reached out to him and other Czechs working at the plant. For two years they have invited them to their Mausopust celebration, which is similar to Mardi Gras.

"When I was a child I sang a Czech folk song about how I was on my way to Protivin which does not take an hour, and now here I am in the United States less than an hour from Protivin," Charvat said.