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Flat Rock Plant Gets New Investment, New Jobs

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jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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FLAT ROCK (WWJ) – The newly named “Ford Assembly Plant” in Flat Rock is celebrating a bright future.

“I think it’s so bright, we need shades,” said worker Janice Miller.

Ford workers and executives gathered on the front lawn of the facility that’s carried the “AutoAlliance” name since 1992. For more than 20 years Ford and Mazda vehicles were built on the same line. But, the last Mazda rolled off the line last month.

“As of today, the Flat Rock Assembly Plant is only building Ford vehicles,” said Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields.

Ford is going to invest more than 500 million dollars in the plant, including a new flexible body shop. It will add production of the Ford Fusion next year, along with a second shift and 1200 new jobs.

The Fusion is also made in Mexico. But Fields believes that there will be more demand for an all new version of the vehicle that will be debuting in the coming weeks.

“The segment is so important,” said Fields, referring to mid-size cars. “That is ground zero in the auto industry these days.”

The Flat Rock plant is still technically half owned by Mazda. Fields didn’t give specifics on how that relationship will run in the future, but didn’t rule out a Ford purchase of Mazda’s stake.

Mazda opened the plant in 1987, as one of the first foreign owned factories in the United States. Ford purchased a 50 percent stake in the facility in 1992, and—until today—it carried the AutoAlliance name.

It was one of the few auto factories to work on only one shift. The new investment was worked out during last year’s UAW contract talks. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says the new investment is a great example of people working together.

“It wasn’t about bailouts and bankruptcy,” he said. “It was the American auto workers and American auto companies that came back. And you should take great pride that Ford didn’t use either one of those.”

UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, a strong supporter of President Obama, was quick to point out that Ford executives have admitted that they would have been in danger, had GM and Chrysler been allowed to fail.

Other than that, the ceremony mostly stayed away of political overtones, and was a celebration of a resurgent auto industry.

“We’ve gone through some dark days and we’ve come out of it,” said Congressman John Dingell. “We showed that you can’t keep a good man, or a good woman down. We’ve also shown that American workers are so good, that we’re going to bring jobs back from Mexico to do right here in Michigan.”

Workers are mostly glad that the plant will have a future.

“We had a little bit of an uncertain future not to long ago,” said Cindy Parkhurst, who has worked at the plant since it opened in 1987. “We weren’t sure what we were going to have here. With this announcement and having the big sign up there, it’s an unbelievable chapter in the history of this place.”

Mike Stayley, who was also an original employee of the plant, said he was glad that Ford decided to take control.

“I think we’re on the right track, and they picked a really good plant for it.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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