March 4, 2013

VIEW FROM AWAY: Ford brings some manufacturing back to US

The Plain-Dealer

Over the past six years, Ford's Engine Plant No. 1 in Brook Park, Ohio, has held a mirror to the health of the domestic auto industry.

In 2007, with Ford hemorrhaging cash, company executives announced they were "temporarily" closing the factory while the company worked through its inventory of engines.

The shutdown lasted almost two years while Ford put itself through a painful restructuring and re-imagining of its product lines and strategy -- and the entire American auto sector suffered a near-death experience.

Recently, Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford's American operations and the man who brought bad news to Brook Park six years ago, was back to announce that the company was bringing work from Europe to suburban Cleveland. Engine Plant No. 1, which reopened in 2009 with a single shift, soon will add 450 employees to the 1,065 working there now. The number could grow even more because the plant will be making the 2-liter EcoBoost engine, a fuel-efficient model the revitalized company deems absolutely critical to future competitiveness.

In a very different era, Ford employed 16,000 in its Brook Park complex. Those days are long gone. But the rebirth of Engine Plant No. 1 -- thanks in no small measure to the sacrifices of its United Auto Workers members -- is evidence that American manufacturing can compete and succeed in the global marketplace.

-- The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Feb. 24

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