A little optimism

We talked to the President of the Auto Workers union at the Claycomo Ford plant yesterday afternoon and then got the Manager of Corporate Communications for Ford on the line yesterday evening. UAW local president Jeff Wright was on an arranged teleconference for reporters who listened to him and two other people who are part of a huge lobbying effort to get the legislature to approve tax incentives for Ford if it opens a new production line at Claycomo, replacing the Escape SUV which is moving to Kentucky for the 2012 model year.

Ford has been publicly silent about its plans for Claycomo after the Escape escapes. A couple of the reporters on the teleconference wanting to get some meat from the teleconference did get Wright to admit that Ford had “indicated” to the UAW that it would produce one of its next generation lines at Claycomo. He wouldn’t go much beyond that, saying the discussions had been behind closed doors and it was not the union’s place to reveal what was said.

Ford’s John Stoll would not—probably more appropriately, could not—spill the beans either. But there is space between the lines in what he said. Yes, Ford does have several next generation vehicles headed for production. The company has ample time to decide what it’s going to do with the new lines and where it will produce them. The Claycomo plant will be available and there is time for Ford to make plans and re-tool. Yes, Ford has talked to the union and has talked to state leaders. No, the content of the meetings won’t be public. No, Ford is not just holding out to get more money from the state but it does work with its local governments and incentives are welcome.

The key answer came when we noted that Claycomo, being a productive plant with a proven workforce, would weigh in favor of being a place for a next-generation Ford product. He said Ford has shown a commitment to existing facilities and has no plans for a new assembly plant. He called Claycomo “right in the heart” of the company’s current manufacturing plan.

So put yourself in the seat of one of our state legislators. Is that enough to convince you to seal the deal with a tax incentive plan?

Still unresolved is whether enough lawmakers will favor changing the way future state workers accumulate pension benefits. Passage of the pension bill is considered the key to approval of the Ford tax incentive proposal. Although the multiple-lobbyist group does not care house the Ford tax incentives are financed, a lot of lawmakers say financing of it is the deal-maker or deal-breaker.

AUDIO: Our conversation with John Stoll (10 min)

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