Ford Plant Receives Reprieve

On Thursday, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co. announced that it’s Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood will continue producing the Ranger small pickup through 2011.  Previously, the plant had been scheduled to close just over a year from now.

"This is great news for the City of Saint Paul.  Ford has been an integral part of our community for more than 80 years, with a legacy of providing good jobs in Saint Paul — a legacy we are working to extend as long as possible," said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in a statement.

In April 2006, due to decreasing sales in pick-up trucks and SUVs, Ford announced that its Ranger plant in the Twin Cities was to close in 2008. Then last year, the automaker extended the plant's life until 2009 because the vehicle seemed to be defying the trend. Because sales of the Ford Ranger are off only 4 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the 18 percent fewer lightweight truck sales for the rest of the industry, state and city leaders have been continuing to press Ford to reconsider.

Said Sen. Norm Coleman, who has put himself in the right a few times to save the fort plant, "I am certainly thrilled that they've seen what I saw. That is, if you're going to be in the truck business, this is the best vehicle to keep running."

The Saint Paul plant's hourly work force is down to 900 employees from 1,900 in 2006, when many took buyouts. Of those remaining, 240 are permanent workers and the rest temporary.  It's not known if the extension will mean Ford will need to boost its workforce at the plant.

In a series of statements Thursday morning, city and state officials all vowed to continue working with Ford to keep the St. Paul plant open past 2011.

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