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Driving growth
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Golf fans around the world have their attention focused on Augusta this week as the game's best descend on The Masters.

However, attention should also be brought elsewhere in Georgia. Bridgestone Golf in Covington is providing more than the thrill of competition and the pageantry of Amen Corner.

Bridgestone announced this week the expansion of its Covington plant to produce 40 percent more golf balls a year providing an additional 20 jobs.

For about a year Bridgestone, the No. 1 ball-fitter in golf, has been planning the expansion and will continue to work on it throughout 2012.

Currently the plant, located on 14230 Lochridge Rd, has additional machinery both newly purchased and transplanted from other factories awaiting the full factory run.

The Japan-based company has already started the hiring process, and will continue throughout the year bringing in personnel in positions from manufacturing supervisors to production line workers.

The hiring of such personnel will be heralded this Friday by the Covington Chamber of Commerce with the ringing of the bell ceremony.

"We here at the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce are thrilled to share in the excitement of Bridgestone Golf's expansion in our community," said chamber president Hunter Hall. "As a Chamber Champion and highly involved corporate citizen, it gives us great pride to see them grow their operations and add quality jobs here in Covington. We are proud to be the home of the only golf ball manufacturer in Georgia, and to proudly say they are growing."

The growth of Bridgestone's sales has been occurring since it took over the Precept brand in 2005. Precept has been producing golf balls in Covington since 1990 and has turned out more than 600 million golf balls. If you were to line up that number of golf balls in a row, the line would cover 15,782 miles, stretching from Covington to Tokyo and back again.

The factory produces several product lines of the No. 2 ball in golf, second only to Titleist, in Covington and will now expand its Tour quality line. The 40 percent expansion will primarily be for its TOUR B330-RX family of Urethane-covered golf balls.

Bridgestone's Tour line of balls run approximately $45 per dozen, and the company has sold over 50 million dozen, which has helped warrant the current expansion.

"(The expansion is) mostly due to the fact that we've had very nice growth over last several years," said Dan Murphy Bridgestone's Vice President of Marketing. "The end result will be production will increase by 40 percent."

That increase will not cause Bridgestone to expand its footprint, rather just rearrange previous space.

"We congratulate Bridgestone Golf on its expansion and appreciate its continued investment in Georgia," said Gretchen Corbin, Deputy Commissioner for Global Commerce at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. "Bridgestone's presence here and its contributions as one of our best corporate citizens enhances our state's rich golf heritage and speaks to the importance of international investment."

As professional golfers vie for millions of dollars at Augusta National this weekend, Bridgestone is helping bring money here in Covington to every day citizens thanks to its expansion.

"We are proud to be bringing jobs and an infusion of capital to Georgia," said Shigeru
Nakayama, President of Bridgestone Golf, Inc. "In just seven short years since we launched the Bridgestone Golf brand, we have cemented our place as the No. 2 golf ball in the industry in terms of dollar market share. That success is in large part due to the very people working right here in this factory, that are focused on product quality and meeting the needs of our growing customer base every day."