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Changes For Auto Workers In Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Louisville's two Ford assembly plants will be restructured within three years as the automaker seeks to become more adaptable and respond to changes in the auto market.
The Louisville Assembly Plant, which makes the Ford Explorer midsize SUV, will be getting a flexible body shop and begin making smaller, fuel-efficient cars to sell in the United States by 2011, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday.
The new vehicles will be built on the European Focus frame,
Abramson said.
Ford is also moving production of the Lincoln Navigator and Ford
Expedition from Michigan to the Kentucky Truck Plant in early 2009,
Abramson and Beshear said. The Kentucky Truck Plant currently makes
Ford Super Duty pickups.
Abramson said Ford will invest $100 million in the Kentucky Truck Plant to ready the facility to make the Navigator and Expedition.
The multimillion-dollar restructuring will give Louisville two flexible assembly plants and extend the life of the two facilities well into the future, Beshear said.
"The company is betting the success of its future and the future of the auto industry on Louisville, Ky.," Beshear said.
Ford scheduled a press conference for 2:15 EDT at the Louisville
Assembly Plant.
The announcement marks a turnaround for the Louisville plants since 2006, when they were considered by Ford as candidates for
closure.
"When it comes to Ford Motor Co., Louisville has had more lives
than most cats when you consider what we've had to go through,"
Beshear said.
Abramson said the city and state used financial incentives to lure Ford into investing in the local plants. Those incentives haven't been finished, but should be made public in a few weeks, he said. Also, the city and state are working on a job retraining package for Ford employees, Abramson said.
"We've been working on a significant package to focus on the
retraining of people who will work on the new c-class cars," Abramson said.
The two plants employ about 6,000 people. Abramson said Ford
will continue the buyouts it has started of some employees and the number of people working there may fall during the restructuring. But Abramson said once the retooled plants are online, the employment figures are expected to rise.
"There may even be opportunities for expansion of jobs in our
hometown," Abramson said.
Abramson, Beshear, Kentucky Economic Development Secretary John Hindman and Greater Louisville Inc. President Joe Reagan flew to
Michigan in early April to meet with Ford executives about the two plants. Ford has been meeting with Louisville and Kentucky officials each month since then about the incentive package.
But, until Thursday, Ford made no commitments to Louisville about the future of the plants, Beshear said.
"I just think we outworked a lot of people," Beshear said. "Until today, the plans weren't set in stone."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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