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Local boy saves plant

All smiles: Marin Burela was warmly greeted by the hundreds of people whose jobs he saved.

How Ford boss Marin Burela returned to Geelong as a home-town hero

Ford logo20 Nov 2008


MARIN Burela has just saved a factory in his home town.

The Geelong-raised executive, who had been working in Europe, kick-started a plan to save the in-line six engine plant before he had even arrived back in the country to take over as president of Ford Australia at the start of last month.

Federal industry minister Kim Carr told GoAuto today that Mr Burela was in Spain when he phoned to reveal his plan to save the plant, which has been producing six-cylinder engines in Geelong since 1960. It was their first conversation.

“I had a late phone call at night and he raised it with me,” said Senator Carr. “He said, ‘What do you reckon?’ and I said, ‘Yes, let’s do it’.”

Mr Carr told us that the plan to come to fruition very quickly.

“We had a meeting on (the following) Sunday afternoon in my office and it was all done in six weeks,” he said.

“We had to put our machinery into overdrive, too, but it’s no good sitting around scratching your ass for the next three years.”

It is not yet clear whether the plant, which sits behind the massive blue and white Ford blue oval sign at the northern entrance to the coastal city, will be around for a long time or whether its execution has only been stayed for another few years.

But that was of little concern to the engine plant workers who stood and listened to Mr Burela’s announcement today.

Judging by the handshakes and bear hugs he received after the press conference, they are a happy lot. After all, their new boss, who joined the company as a graduate 25 years ago, had managed to save the plant, something two Ford Australia chiefs before him had failed to do.

Around 400 workers at the Geelong factory will get to keep their jobs and an estimated 900 component supplier positions have been saved as well.

Making today’s announcement was a satisfying moment for the mad-keen Geelong Football Club supporter, whose second public outing as Ford Australia president was to front the media on October 16 and explain that 450 jobs were to be axed.

Beaming from the podium at today’s media announcement, Mr Burela described this as a great day.

“It is a truly a tremendous opportunity to celebrate something that I would say many of us would not have thought would become a reality,” he said.

“This wasn’t going to be easy, we knew that, but we also knew it was something that we had to do and was the right thing to do.”

Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union vehicle division federal secretary Ian Jones agreed that keeping the plant going was the right thing to do.

“This is a very good Christmas as a consequence of this announcement for a large number of people,” he said.

Mr Jones expressed the relief of the workers who thought they were about to watch the factory shutters come down.

“There is a truism right around the world in automotive manufacture and that is, ‘Don’t let them turn the lights out, because once the lights are out they never get turned back on again’,” he said.

“This is a living demonstration of the truism… We have been able to salvage this plant and develop it and create the technology that will take us forward. The lights will be on and we can work on new product to replace the current product and new technology to build this company and build new opportunities.”

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Ford to keep engine plant open

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