By: Joshua Bowling
Bridgestone Americas, Inc. moved their research on domestic, organic rubber to a 10-acre research facility located in Mesa this September.
Director of New Business Development for Bridgestone Americas, Bill Niaura, said they will be focusing on the guayule plant as a source of organic rubber.
The guayule plant – a Mexican shrub that yields latex – is being examined by Bridgestone’s subsidiary at the new Biorubber Process Research Center as a candidate for organic rubber. They promised preliminary guayule rubber samples within the month of October.
According to Bridgestone Americas Inc., 90 percent of the world’s natural rubber comes from hevea rubber trees in Southeast Asia.
Guayule rubber has qualities that are nearly identical to natural rubber coming from hevea rubber trees, according to Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
Niaura said “Bridgestone is positioning itself to meet the constant, anticipated growth in demand for natural rubber.”
Bridgestone is moving toward manufacturing products from fully renewable and sustainable raw products by the year 2050, Niaura said.
The guayule produced at the new research center will be sent to Bridgestone’s technical centers in Akron, Ohio, and Tokyo, Japan.
At these facilities, engineers will seek to integrate the organic rubber into their product line through experimentation.
Local government officials spoke highly of the new research center’s opening.
Mayor John Giles of Mesa said he is hopeful such events mark the beginning of an industry digging in and providing jobs for the community.
Scott Somers, Mesa’s District 6 council member, said Bridgestone is helping Mesa reach a goal of having 100,000 high-paying jobs.
Mesa is the 38th largest city in the United States, according to mesaaz.gov. The Phoenix-Mesa area currently boasts a population of 4.3 million people, and is projected by the City of Mesa to grow to 6.3 million people by the year 2030.
As of 2013, Mesa’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This makes Mesa’s economy more competitive than the greater Phoenix economy, which has an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.
In a market dominated by man-made materials, Bridgestone will be unique in offering products made of organic substances.
Irving Garibaldi, a student at Mesa Community College, said he found Bridgestone’s recent advancement interesting.
“I’m eager to see what the new products are like and how they’ll fare against old products,” Garibaldi said. “… Efficiency is another benefit to the environmental movement.”
With the promise of an organic rubber sample by the end of October, Bridgestone will soon discover if there is a potential market for organic rubber.