Governor Works To Keep Ford Motor Company In The State

Ford Motor Co.'s reported $12.7 billion loss last year was "a great concern," and state officials were negotiating a plan to keep the automotive giant in Kentucky, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said Thursday.

Incentives could include money for training employees, and possibly land, if the company were to build a new facility in Kentucky, Fletcher said.

"We will be making some recommendations to the General Assembly this year and we hope that sends a strong message to Ford Motor
Company that we're ready to help them turn the company around and
become profitable again," Fletcher told reporters on his way into a state transportation conference.

Ford has started a massive restructuring plan and was not expecting to make a profit until 2009. Kentucky's two plants survived a recent round of shutdowns, but there are no guarantees for the future.

Ford has two plants in Louisville, including the Kentucky Truck Plant which began producing the new F-Series Super Duty pickup truck in December. Ford invested $65 million into the plant, which employs more than 4,800 hourly workers and 306 salaried employees, in preparation for the new truck.

Combined, Ford's two plants in Louisville employ about 9,000

Nationwide, about 38,000 hourly workers have signed up for buyout or early retirement offers from the company, and Ford plans to cut its white-collar work force by 14,000 with buyouts and early retirements.

Fletcher, at an event last month unveiling the new Super Duty truck, said some of his administration officials were negotiating a package with Ford aimed at protecting its two assembly plants from closing. At the time, Fletcher would not offer any details.

But Thursday, Fletcher said he hoped his administration could reach a plan that would give Ford additional flexibility at its Kentucky plants.

Fletcher said the package was still in talks, but that it could include such things as a "green field," if Ford wanted to construct a new facility and training money for Ford employees.

"We wouldn't want to comment on anything Ford's considering,
but certainly we're willing to offer any of those things," Fletcher said.

Ford officials wouldn't comment on details of the talks.

"We value our relationship with Gov. Fletcher, as we do with the elected officials in all of our plant communities, and we have ongoing dialogues," Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said. "And until there is something concrete to announce I can't comment
on any specifics."

The cost for any Ford initiative was still unknown, Fletcher said. State officials won't have an official forecast until Friday regarding how much money they could spend on the plan.

"We're one of the major automobile producers and we hope that we can continue to make it a place that's most profitable for Ford Motor Company to build their cars and trucks."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)