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Ford continues US hiring spree

On the job: The addition of the Transit van to Ford’s production plant in Kansas City in the US has created an extra 2000 jobs.

Ford set to pass 12,000 new jobs target in US as Australia works on exit assistance

1 May 2014

FORD is on track to hire more than the 12,000 new workers it pledged to add to its manufacturing labour force in the United States by 2015.

The Blue Oval brand, which is closing its Australian manufacturing operations in 2016 at a cost of around 1200 jobs, committed in October 2011 to add 12,000 positions in the US under a new national labour agreement forged with the United Auto Workers union.

At the same time, the company announced it would invest $US16 billion ($A17.2b) in its US product development and manufacturing operations – including $6.2 billion in plant-specific investments – by 2015.

However, Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs has now revealed that the business had grown faster than the company predicted it would back in 2011, and that it was highly likely more workers beyond the targeted 12,000 would be added to the US labour force.

The Blue Oval brand had around 84,000 workers on its payroll in North America as at the end of last year, up from 75,000 in 2011.

Announcing 2000 new jobs and a $US1.1 billion investment at its Kansas City assembly plant, which is now producing the Transit van, Ford this week confirmed it was more than 75 per cent toward the goal of creating 12,000 new jobs by 2015 and that almost 5000 new hourly and salaried employees would be added in 2014 “to support overall growth”.

“Our investment in Kansas City assembly plant for Transit production is about delivering world-class commercial vans for a new generation of commercial customers, while building on our decades of leadership in the market and supporting new jobs throughout the region and across America,” Mr Hinrichs said.

Soon after Ford announced its decision last year that it would close down its manufacturing operations in Australia in 2016, Mr Hinrichs said Australia was too small a market and too remote.

“Australia is isolated with an industry of about one million units.

Logistically it is not a good location,” Mr Hinrichs told Canada’s The Globe and Mail last July.

“The combination of the high Australian dollar and isolated location doesn’t make it a good export base and not a big enough total (sales) volume industry to support manufacturing.

“The Canadian situation is a little different than Australia because there is enough volume in the total North American industry to support high-volume plants, which makes up for some of those other issues.”

As well as retooling and expanding the Kansas City factory for Transit production, Ford’s latest investment factors in “surging customer demand” for its all-important F-150 pick-up truck which is also built at the plant and enters a new generation later this year.

Ford’s vice-president of North America manufacturing Bruce Hettle said the upgrades have helped make the plant “the global standard for Ford’s new manufacturing facilities across the world”.

“To support Ford’s global growth, in 2014 we will open three new manufacturing facilities – two of them in Asia Pacific and one in South America,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ford Australia and the federal and Victorian state governments last week jointly announced a $1.2 million investment in Lakeside Packaging Management, based in Melbourne’s north, that is designed to create opportunities for Ford Australia workers who will lose their jobs in 2016.

The funding will help Lakeside Packaging invest $2.9 million in paper production, coating and machinery conversion “to enable it to meet market demand for specialty coated paper and ultimately lead to a doubling of its workforce to 32”.

Federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane said the investment will create new markets so that the “forward-looking family business” can expand.

“The business will reduce its reliance on imported paper, and will have the capacity to sell the paper to other businesses,” he said.

Victorian minister for manufacturing David Hodgett added: “Lakeside Packaging had humble beginnings – 25 years ago it was operating one printing press from the garage of the family home.

“Now it is embarking on a new phase that will see it expand into specialty coated paper.”

Ford Australia president Bob Graziano described the project as another example of how the jointly funded $49 million ‘innovation and investment’ fund – set up for the areas around Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly plant in Melbourne’s north and its production facilities in Geelong – was “developing and diversifying manufacturing in the region”.

“The ambitious expansion plans being announced today by Lakeside Packaging are yet another outstanding example of how the (fund) is providing support for investment by local business that results in increased economic activity and new, sustainable jobs,” he said.

“There is no doubt that the ... program is delivering innovative and exciting projects while assisting Melbourne’s northern region to diversify its economic base.”

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