ARDMORE, Okla. (KTEN) — The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority met Thursday afternoon to  approve a program responding Michelin's recent announcement that it was ending tire production at its Ardmore factory, the city's largest employer.

"The employees there are our priority," said Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell. "We are the tip of the spear when it comes to retention and rapid response programs like this."

In a span of three weeks, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce — in partnership with the Ardmore Development Authority — created the Rapid Community Response Program.

"Today's announcement with these funds is a bit of good news," said ADA president Bill Murphy. "Now that we can begin to work with other companies in our region and others who may be looking at our region for opportunities to employ those 1,400 employees that will be departing Michelin for the next 18 to 24 months."

Over the next two years, the program will be funded through tax withholdings from Michelin to retain employees, providing opportunity for continued growth.

"The phased shutdown isn't even starting until July of next year, so that's why we need to do this quickly," Pinnell explained. "We want to maximize the majority of the withholding taxes we possibly can — and we believe it will be up to $5 million — so we want to start now to pool those dollars and then get them right back into the community to create new businesses and pull new business into Ardmore."

Program funds will also give laid-off workers resources for training and ensure that Michelin's plant will remain an asset for future businesses.

"We want to make sure that we prioritize and take care of those employees that worked at that Michelin plant," Pinnell said. "We know that it's a global business, but it's really a family business locally in the Ardmore area, and that is going to be a priority for the Department of Commerce in not just in the next few months, but in the years to come."