As the heads of the Big Three auto makers appeared before Congress to ask for financial help, Ford employees in Louisville rallied for their employer.
More than four dozen Ford Motor Corp. employees cheered and applauded at the Kentucky Truck Plant Thursday as Gov. Steve Beshear and other officials called for federal lawmakers to pass
$34 billion in emergency aid.
The money would help a state where between 80,000 and 85,000 people are employed by the auto industry either directly or through suppliers and dealerships, Beshear said.
"We're not asking for a handout," Beshear said. "We're asking to partner with the federal government."
The heads of Ford, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC were on Capitol Hill Thursday in a second attempt to persuade Congress to help the ailing industry. Congress turned away an initial attempt by the automakers last month to get financial help from the federal treasury.
Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says without help, the auto industry could fail. That, in turn, would have a devastating impact on the Louisville area, where the truck plant, a Ford Assembly Plant and parts suppliers are located, Abramson said.
Ford is investing about $100 million in its two Louisville plants. Plans for the truck plant, which currently produces Super Duty pickups, call for it to make the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. The Ford Assembly Plant will start producing smaller, fuel-efficient cars for sale in the United States by 2011.
Abramson criticized Congress for not taking seriously enough the impact Ford and other automakers have on communities around the country.
"This is not a joke, this is not a game," Abramson said. "These are real people."
One of those real people, Mark Dowell, a 35-year-old Ford employee from Crestwood, said the employees and the United Auto Workers union are ready to make concessions to keep the company going through the current economic troubles.
"We're all trying to survive this economic downturn," Dowell said.
Anything that impacts the Ford plants in Louisville will have a ripple effect across the state, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said.
Newberry, who attended the rally in Louisville, said the same suppliers who deal with Ford also get parts to the Toyota plant in Georgetown.
That plant's employees live and shop in the Lexington area and 83 percent of the city's budget is tied to people spending and the economy, Newberry said.
"We are dependent on these folks spending money," Newberry said. "The auto industry is huge."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)