AVON LAKE, Ohio -- Ford Motor Co. announced Tuesday it will move a truck-assembly operation from Mexico to Lorain County in 2013, saving 1,400 jobs, while also fueling the political debate over which party deserves credit.
Ford, United Auto Workers officials, and Gov. John Kasich announced the state-aided $128 million investment in the Ford plant in Avon Lake, a rural and bedroom community west of Cleveland.
Ford will get $15 million in state tax credits over 15 years in connection with moving production of its medium-commercial truck from Mexico to its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, and Sheffield Village starting in 2014.
"This plant will in-source work from Mexico; how about that?" said Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American manufacturing for Ford, during the news conference inside the plant.
He said Ford has made a commitment to manufacturing in the United States "in a big way." He said the automaker will add 12,000 jobs and spend $16 billion in the nation over the next four years.
"You've got to really compliment Ford," Mr. Kasich said. "They had a chance to move to Mexico and they didn't do it. They invested right here in Avon Lake, and it's fantastic."
He said the state will see a return on its investment within the first year based on tax revenues generated by the plant.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), whose home is in nearby Avon, issued a prepared statement applauding the news.
He also touched on President Obama's support for the 2009 taxpayer bailouts that saved Chrysler and General Motors and which were supported by Ford as well.
As with the recent Chrysler Group LLC announcement of a planned expansion to create 1,105 new jobs at the Toledo assembly plant, Democrats sought Tuesday to remind voters that many Republicans opposed the auto-industry bailouts.
"While Ford did not require assistance through the auto restructuring, there is no question that letting Chrysler and General Motors go under would have damaged the entire auto-supply chain, closing small manufacturers and harming business at the companies that not only sell parts to Chrysler and GM, but to Ford and other car companies," Mr. Brown said. "When the outlook was bleak, we stood with the Big Three -- and Ohio is reaping new jobs and investments as a result."
U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (D., Barberton) blasted the GOP's potential presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
"Romney has positioned himself as someone who can create jobs, but he would have let America's auto industry collapse," Ms. Sutton said. "Ohioans simply can't afford to have a president who will turn their back on our auto workers. By his own admission, if Mitt Romney were president instead of Barack Obama, we wouldn't have an American automobile industry as we know it today."
Governor Kasich, a Republican, declined again to say whether the bailouts were good policy. Mr. Kasich was not in office at the time and does not appear to have taken a strong public stand on the bailouts. However, Mr. Romney said the car companies should have been left to restructure through bankruptcy rather than get a check from the government.
"We're all pleased. I'm thrilled with the fact that they've survived," Mr. Kasich said, noting that Ford did not take the assistance. "I wasn't voting on that. You can't put me back in time, but I'm pleased with the outcome. I'm really happy these companies are stronger. I think Chrysler now has paid back its loan. I'm thrilled that they have decided that Toledo is really critical. I hope we get more auto jobs."
Ford now makes its Econoline van at the Avon Lake plant in Lorain County but will end that production in 2013 when the successor van, the Transit, begins production in Kansas City, Mo.
Ford United Auto Workers unit chairman Tim Rowe said Ford has been committing to a new vehicle to be produced at Avon Lake in each of the last three four-year contracts.
"This is the first time we had a product announcement," Mr. Rowe said. "The future here was looking bleak."
Mr. Tetreault said the plant retooling for the new truck production was made possible in part by the recently concluded negotiations with the UAW. He also credited the governor.
"We've chosen to invest in Ohio because it's proven to be a location where we have a very skilled, knowledgeable, and competitive work force," Mr. Tetreault said.
"This is going to ensure that we do business in Ohio for a very long time," Mr. Tetreault said. He said the tax-credit approval was "instrumental in the company's business decision to in-source that work from Mexico, enabled by the governor and his strong leadership."
The incentive package approved by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority was for a 50-percent, 15-year refundable $15 million job retention tax credit for the retention of $58 million in existing payroll.
As part of the agreement, the company agrees to maintain operations at the site for at least 18 years. The project is expected to retain 1,400 jobs, although there are now 1,900 workers at the plant.
By comparison, the state approved a 75-percent, 15-year, job-creation tax credit for Chrysler Group LLC when the company committed to create 1,105 jobs at the Toledo assembly plant. The tax credit, announced Nov. 16, was valued at $10.2 million.
Ford is making its commercial trucks -- a size between pickups and tractor-trailer rigs -- in Escobedo, Mexico, in a joint venture with Navistar, a Ford spokesman said.
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Automaker announced it would move truck-assembly to Lorain County.