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Published: Tuesday, 9/19/2006

Big 3 firms continue realigning of area jobs


The news that the Toledo area will have 700 fewer automobile industry jobs when Ford Motor Co. shutters its Maumee Stamping Plant is just the latest sign of the realignment of the area's Big Three factories.

DaimlerChrysler AG plans to cut 800 jobs by 2011 at its suburban Toledo machining plant, the result of investing $700 million to shift work to engine products. Altering what the factory does means decreasing the work force from 1,430 to about 600.

More than 40 percent of the 2,900 hourly workers at General Motors Corp.'s Toledo transmission factory plan to take financial incentives to leave their jobs next year, and roughly a third of the 2,100 workers at the Defiance Powertrain plant will do the same.

There's even a shifting of jobs at Chrysler's Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant, with a dozen new or expanded suppliers in the area hiring about 1,000 employees to supply the complex, which has a total of more than 4,500 employees.

That figure is down from the nearly 5,000 the Toledo Jeep plant boasted in the late 1990s.

But news of the job reductions is not as devastating as it first appears, said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

"Everybody's so caught up in the here and now with the cutbacks and the layoffs that they don't realize just a little ways down the road, [job shortages] will kick in and it will be very positive," he said.

Ford and other plants have several levels of employees who are close to retirement and will be able to get attractive buyouts, he said.

Younger workers, especially those willing to get further training or switch careers, will benefit from a shortage of workers that is expected to rise to 10 million nationwide in just four or five years, he said.

The auto industry expert said the decision to close the Maumee plant, for example, was something Ford had to do to reduce capacity and does not reflect on the plant's work force.

John Gibney, a spokesman for the Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership, said staffers are taking a two-pronged approach to marketing the area to prospective employers: talking up the skilled work force and identifying industries other than autos that could use those workers.

"We have a very talented, trained base here," he said.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken spent a decade helping to retrain workers as the former administrator of the UAW Chrysler Training Center. He said he is confident such programs can work.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at


or 419-724-6199.

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