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Ford’s 400 new jobs in Oakville bode well for Hamburg plant

Ford’s stamping plant in Hamburg could benefit from good news at a Ford plant up the Queen Elizabeth Way.

On Thursday, Ford said it was adding 400 jobs at its Oakville, Ont., assembly plant. The announcement came as the automaker officially launched production of the 2015 Ford Edge, which will be exported to more than 100 countries.

The stamping plant on Route 5 supplies metal parts to the plant outside of Toronto for vehicles including the Edge, the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKX and MKT. In an interview earlier this month, the Hamburg plant’s controller, Bill Kirk, said that about 60 to 65 percent of what the facility produces is shipped to the Oakville site.

The 400 new jobs at the Oakville site are in addition to 1,000 new employees announced by Ford for that plant last year. Last September, Ford committed to investing $700 million (Canadian) into the Oakville plant, which secured an existing 2,800 jobs there. The automaker said the plant has added more than 250 robots and has upgraded about 1,000 robots.

With 1,400 new employees coming onboard, the Oakville site created a simulation classroom to provide hands-on training. Ford says the retooling and expansion of the Oakville plant has turned it into “one of the most competitive and advanced global manufacturing plants in Canada.”

“We’re proud to show the world advanced manufacturing right here in Canada and look forward to serving new global customers,” Dianne Craig, a Buffalo-area native and the president and CEO of Ford Motor Co. of Canada, said in a statement.

The Hamburg stamping plant has 735 employees and has undergone its own upgrades in the last year, helping it stay competitive in Ford’s manufacturing network.

The new Edge will go on sale this spring in the United States and Canada and eventually will be sold in countries around the world, including in Western Europe for the first time. That is expected to spur sales of the vehicle, which could in turn create a need for more parts from the Hamburg plant.

“Our plan is always to match capacity with demand,” said Lloryn Love, a Ford spokeswoman.

Arthur Wheaton, an automotive expert at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo, said the Oakville plant is a vital source of work for the Hamburg plant. Nowadays, he said, it is common for automakers to run stamping and assembly facilities side by side, to take out transportation costs. The Hamburg plant has survived as a standalone stamping operation, supplying Oakville and other Ford assembly sites.

“That’s a really big, important thing for them to have a good connection with the assembly line, and it’s almost as important to have the good relations with Canada for the border, because you don’t need any transportation hassles for getting the product back and forth,” Wheaton said. “So far, we’ve had pretty good luck with that.”

While Ford did not commit to any new jobs at the Hamburg plant in conjunction with the Oakville announcement, Wheaton said it’s possible that more jobs could be added if sales of the Edge take off.

Wheaton said the Hamburg plant is in a good position with its own new investment and by diversifying its production. It can also stamp aluminum parts, supporting vehicles such as the new F-150.