Ford Moving Escape Production from KC to Louisville, KY

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Ford Motor Co. has announced it will produce the next generation of its Escape SUV in Louisville, KY, investing $600 million in its Louisville Assembly Plant, according to a report in Kansas City Business Journal.

The move is a setback for Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, MO, which now produces the midsized SUV. The loss of the Escape, without another line to take its place, could affect half of the local plant’s 3,700 employees. However, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans told Business Journal that Ford doesn’t plan to abandon Kansas City.

“We will be building a new product in Kansas City, but it’s too early for us to say what that product will be,” Evans said.

David Kerr, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said he remains “extremely optimistic” about the KC plant’s future.

Ford said its investment in the Louisville Assembly Plant will make it the company’s most flexible, high-volume plant in the world. Its initial product will be the next-generation Ford Escape, and the plant will complete its transformation in time to restart production in 2011, the company said. Retooling and construction will begin in mid-December.

Ford plans to hire an additional 1,800 employees and add an extra shift of production in Louisville. “The 1,800 additional jobs are expected to be filled through a combination of transferring employees from other facilities, re-activating workers on indefinite layoff at the time of launch and hiring new workers,” the company said in the release.

In June 2010, the United Auto Workers posted an online newsletter voicing its concern that the Missouri General Assembly killed the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act in May because Ford was planning to move Escape production to Louisville. Gov. Jay Nixon called the General Assembly into special sections and passed the Jobs Act, which included as much as $100 million for Ford if it would reinvest in the Kansas City Assembly Plant and maintain or add jobs there.

Ford started an application for the Jobs Act funds in November, but indicated that its application did not signify a commitment to invest in the plant, but rather the company wanted to make certain that it is eligible to receive tax credits for a future investment.

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