July 23, 2014

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Mayor: Avon Lake Ford plant in running for expansion

AVON LAKE — The Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake is competing with two other regional Ford plants for an expansion that could bring another 1,800 jobs to the area.

During an interview Tuesday at The Chronicle-Telegram, Avon Lake Mayor Rob Berner said the city is in the running, as is the Ford plant in Louisville, Ky., and another in Wayne, Mich

"It’s probably a vehicle we don’t even know about,” Berner said. “If (Ford) makes a commitment by the fall, it could be under construction in ’08, and building (vehicles) by 2009 or 2010.

The “big carrot,” he said, is 90 acres of development southeast of the plant that would allow for new subcontracting industries to supply parts, similar to the way union-based TNT Logistics in Avon Lake currently provides ceiling panels to the Ohio Assembly Plant.

The jobs created by the expansion could double the plant’s work force of 1,800, Berner said

Berner said the city is working on putting together a development package that would extend Moore Road to Miller Road from Pin Oak Parkway. Avon Lake also would contribute $400,000 toward the project and offer Ford tax abatement over 10 years that would equal or exceed the state’s own incentive of more than $60 million

The state’s cooperation is refreshing, he said, and something sorely missed in 2003 when the Ford Escape was moved from the Avon Lake plant to a plant in Missouri

On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Development wouldn’t comment on any incentive plans with Ford

Berner said while the state’s high electricity costs present a downside for the company, recent improvements to the Avon Lake plant’s paint shop bode well for the city

“I think we have a good shot at (the expansion bid),” he said

Tim Donovan, president of the UAW Local 2000 in Avon Lake, said while the union is always looking to gain more employment, he wouldn’t comment given that Berner is seeking re-election

The Ford Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant provide more than 9,000 jobs in that state and specialize in building the Ford Explorer, Ford F-Series Super Duty, Ford Excursion and Mercury Mountaineer

Chad Carlton, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, said Ford has been part of their community for nearly a century, but he didn’t have any details on possible incentives or the potential expansion

The Ford Wayne Assembly Plant and the Michigan Truck Plant, located in Wayne, Mich., supply 7,500 jobs, and specializes in building the Ford Focus, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator

Peter McInerney, community development director for Wayne, Mich., said Ford invested $400 million into both plants in 2003, but the city tapped out its tax abatement when it was approved to the full extent of the state’s law of 12 years

He said while he was pleased to hear of Ford’s interest in the region, there are never any guarantees

“In the past year or two, when it’s gotten tough, we’ve been watching like everybody else,” McInerney said.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.