There's a real chance that Ford Motor Co. will postpone the scheduled 2009 closing of its Ranger truck plant in Saint Paul if the company can convert the factory into make a more fuel-efficient version in a cost-efficient manner. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Dan McElroy, commissioner of Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development, said Ford officials agreed that the Ranger plant might have a chance at a temporary amnesty, providing the finances can be worked out. The decision about the plant's future could come in late July or early August.
The possibility of an extension sent shock waves through Minnesota, which has been trying to save the plant that has operated on the banks of the Mississippi for more than 80 years. The plant was set to close in the fall of 2009, but Ford began to rethink that decision after Ranger sales rebounded in late 2007 and early 2008. Sales are up 2 percent so far this year, even as the public is shunning larger pickup trucks. Ford has already cut its night shift, bought out 1,600 workers and hired replacement workers at nearly half the prior $28 hourly wage.
Coleman said he is encouraged that Ford may extend production of the Ranger for a few years, but warned that Ford’s final decisions will likely depend on some kind of commitment from the state.
Though it is unlikely the plant would remain open permanently, an extension is not out of the question, according to Ford officials.
Ford workers are cautiously optimistic about the news.