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St. Paul Ford Plant to Stay Open Until 2011

July 24, 2008

By Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Jul. 24–The lights will stay on at the Ford plant in St. Paul for two more years.

Today, Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. said its Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood — scheduled to close a little over a year from now — will continue producing the Ranger small pickup through 2011.

While U.S. sales of lightweight trucks are down 18 percent, sales of the Ford Ranger are off only 4 percent in the first half of this year.

“This is great news for the City of Saint Paul,” said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in a statement. “Ford has been an integral part of our community for more than 80 years, with a legacy of providing good jobs in Saint Paul — a legacy we are working to extend as long as possible.”

The plant’s hourly work force is down to 900 employees from 1,900 in 2006, when many took buyouts. Of those remaining, 240 are permanent workers and the rest temporary.

In April 2006, Ford announced that its Twin Cities Ranger plant was to close in 2008. Last year, the automaker extended the plant’s life until 2009. Since then, state and city leaders, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty, have been pressing Ford to reconsider.

Sen. Norm Coleman met with top executives at Ford in June, asking them to keep the Twin Cities Ford plant open. He also sent a letter to Ford CEO Alan Mulally asking him to reevaluate the viability of the plant.

“I am certainly thrilled that they’ve seen what I saw,” Sen. Coleman said. “That is, if you’re going to be in the truck business, this is the best vehicle to keep running.”

It’s not known if the extension will mean Ford will need to boost its workforce at the plant. Jim Eagle, chairman of UAW Local 879, the Ford union, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sen. Coleman said that while he’d like to see the news today translate into even more jobs at the plant, he’s hesitant to raise expectations.

In a series of statements Thursday morning, city and state officials all vowed to continue working with Ford to keep the St. Paul plant open past 2011.

Said Pawlenty in a statement: “Over the past few years, we have encouraged Ford to keep this plant operating and my administration will use this opportunity to continue discussing additional long-term options with Ford.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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