Ford Motor Co. gave its stamping plant in the Town of Hamburg a $150 million vote of confidence, an investment that will also add 350 jobs to the facility’s work force.
The new investment, announced Thursday, will allow the Route 5 plant to install new machinery and equipment and solidify its relationship with a Ford vehicle assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., near Toronto. The upgrades also mean job security for the plant’s current work force of about 620 hourly and salaried workers, and will prepare the Hamburg plant to make stamped metal body parts for additional vehicles yet to be disclosed.
The Ford plant will steadily capitalize on the new investment and jobs, starting now and proceeding into next year, said David Buzo, the plant manager. “As we bring our equipment up and launch our equipment, they will gradually be put on to the rolls,” he said.
The Hamburg site has a key relationship with the Oakville plant, sending parts it makes up the QEW for the Ford Edge and Flex and Lincoln MKX and MKT. The plant also supplies parts for the Ford F-250, F-350, Focus and Econoline vehicles, which are assembled elsewhere in Ford’s manufacturing network.
On the plant floor, the investment will translate into more than 25 new subassemblies, including hoods, doors and fenders, more than 500 new dies and a new blanking line, which is used to cut sheet metal.
“It will improve our quality, it will improve our reliability, it will improve our up-time and it will allow us to compete with the best in the world,” Buzo said.
Ford will also upgrade and refurbish equipment to support “future product programs” for additional vehicles. “That’s in our cycle plan and I can’t discuss that,” Buzo said.
With the new jobs will come training for the new employees, Buzo said. “If you took a look at the equipment, we’re probably the most highly automated assembly area within the stamping business unit. And it takes a lot of training to be able to handle and maintain this equipment.” The Hamburg site will add a third shift in its press room to help increase plant capacity.
Ford, United Auto Workers and elected leaders credited the plant’s work force with making the investment and jobs a reality.
“This is a sign that Ford trusts us, is invested in us, is going to help us move into our future together,” said Patrick Radtke, president of United Auto Workers Local 897, as he spoke to the plant’s work force.
Scott Adams, director of the UAW’s Amherst-based Region 9, said the Hamburg plant workers “have gone through many, many changes, some of them very hard to explain. But you did what you were asked, and the ultimate reward of job security and long-term viability is here. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The Hamburg announcement comes on the heels of a $682 million investment Ford said in September it was making in its Oakville facility, which will secure 2,800 jobs and expand manufacturing capacity at that site. The investments give both plants reassurance about their status within Ford’s system.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the Hamburg plant’s workers had proven themselves in a “highly competitive market,” results that he said influenced Ford’s decision to invest there.
“You’re in competition every day,” said Cuomo at the plant Thursday. “You have to create a product that is the best and you have to do it for the lowest amount of cost possible, because if you don’t do it here, someone else will.”
New York State is backing Ford’s investment with a $7 million incentive package. That includes $5 million NY Works Fund capital grant, to cover a portion of the machinery and equipment purchases connected to the facility’s renovation. Ford also qualified for up to $2 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits in return for the company’s investment and job creation commitments.
“The state’s assistance helped us build a business case to invest in Buffalo,” said Paul Kosaian, Ford’s director of manufacturing for stamping operations.
The Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board is recommending the New York Power Authority award $1 million to help train 100 new employees. The Power Authority board is set to vote on that recommendation next month.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, said he had spoken to Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, in October to push for adding jobs at the Hamburg plant, and told Mulally the “pre-clearance” program at the Peace Bridge would provide for a reliable international crossing.
“The size of this investment shows that Ford believes in Western New York and is a powerful message to other manufacturers that this a great place to do business,” Schumer said.
Eddie Duncan of Lancaster, a 19-year-employee of the Ford plant, says the investment “is what we strive for. We put the hard work in, we did what we needed to do, and the outcome proved itself.”
Duncan said the investment translates into job security. “Not only that it secures our future, but even if our children would like to work here, to know that they have a good place to make a living also. That’s what it really means.”
Yrma Mrowinski, a 20-year-employee who lives in Buffalo, said the investment reflects that the Ford workers are “doing a really good job. People realize that our vehicles are better than the imports, and because people are buying the vehicles, we’re getting more work in here. I’m really excited.”