LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It was a day of celebration at the Louisville Assembly Plant Wednesday. Ford's President of the America's, Mark Fields, was in town to mark the start of the new era at the plant that came when the first Escapes rolled off the line. It's work they've been doing for a bout a month now and Fields says it's only the beginning of the changes coming to LAP.
In the past the plant has only been able to assemble one type of vehicle at a time, now he says they are prepared to have more than just the Escape coming together in Louisville.
The work happening inside Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant these days is far cry from what it used to be. "Two years ago we were making body frames for SUVs here," says Ford President of the America's Mark Fields. Now complete compact Escapes ready for dealer's parking lots are being produced.
Getting to the point LAP is now was not easy. It took $600 million from Ford and workers being laid off for up to two years. That included Lucretia Howard who worked on the line for 17 years and was brought back in December after a year off. "We are glad to be back," she says. "And seeing our plant up and running."
Thought the layoffs were hard on all Louisville Ford employees, company officials say part of what they were doing during the retooling was making sure the next time they bring in a new line they won't have to do those layoffs again.
Ford says they redesigned the plant to make sure they have the tools and capacity to build up to six different vehicle models at once. "We never had that flexibility in the past, so if consumers demand switched to another vehicle away from the Escape in the future, we have the flexibility to move from vehicle to vehicle and we can do it very quickly," says LAP Manager John Savora.
That means they can add more jobs. Ford says they've already hired 1,800 people. They have plans to add 1,300 more in the fall when they add a third shift. Savora says by then 1,500 of the people work at LAP will be brand new to the company. It's part of Ford's overall plan across the U.S. "By year end 2012 we will be more than half way to our total goal creating positions and bringing work back to America from places like Mexico and Japan," explains Fields.
The workers at Lap are more than happy to be leading that effort. Ford says that third shift is expected to being just about three months from now, in September.