Despite pleas from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other state and local leaders, Ford Motor Co.'s plan to close its St. Paul plant next year remains unchanged, the governor and Ford said Wednesday.
Pawlenty and the other leaders met with Ford Americans President Mark Fields in Dearborn, Mich., on Wednesday and presented a multi-million-dollar package of tax breaks and refunds to the company. The plan, which was signed into law in April, would exempt Ford from some income, property and sales taxes and provide a tax credit for new jobs if Ford stays and upgrades the Mississippi River facility.
"Nothing dramatic came out of this meeting," St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman told reporters.
Pawlenty said the group didn't expect the company to reverse its decision. Instead, he said he wanted to communicate that "if things were to change, for whatever reason, in their thinking that Minnesota had a plan and a strong desire to maintain that Ford plant."
The governor said the aging plant doesn't fit with Ford's plans for the future, which involve facilities that can make several styles of similar vehicles. Ford also said it wanted plants built near existing supply lines.
Unfortunately, Pawlenty said, the St. Paul plant only makes Ford Ranger compact pickup trucks and the state isn't close to the supply lines for other Ford vehicles.
Further, Coleman said, Ford executives said there has been a dramatic drop in market share of compact pickup trucks like the Ranger. "I think that's part of the challenge that we have, the changing nature of the automobile industry," Coleman said.
Fields said in a statement that the company appreciated the efforts of Pawlenty and Coleman, but "at this time, the Twin Cities Assembly Plant does not fit into our global manufacturing strategy."
Ford originally planned to close the plant in 2008, but Ranger sales improved when gas prices spiked, prompting the company to delay closure until the fall of 2011. It employs 750 workers.
Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com/