LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Could you imagine what the 17 men who started building Ford vehicles in Louisville 101 years ago would think if they could see the assembly line today? Back then they hand built a dozen Model T's a day, but their success led to generations of Ford workers who are still in Louisville.
For some it's all in the family, a way of life that was in danger not too long ago.
Parts come together to become one vehicle and on an assembly line, but off the line the people working also come together to create a family unit.
Ford employees William Jackson and his wife Glenda Jackson have been together for 19 years.
"I just looked down the line and saw a special lady and said ‘hey I'm gonna marry her someday,'" William Jackson said.
"I was looking at him and he looked at me and we ended up together," said Glenda Jackson.
While their personal relationship was strong, there was a time it seemed their relationship with Ford was about to suffer a fatal crash.
In 2007, during the height of the recession, Ford started closing plants.
The current state of the art Louisville Assembly Plant, came close to not just slowing down, but shutting down for good.
"I didn't think we'd make it. It was kinda scary," Glenda Jackson said.
Her husband felt the same fear, "Not knowing what was gonna happen tomorrow, if it was gonna be here, gonna be in Louisville or have a job at all."
Even Ford's second in command, Mark Fields, said the future of the plant seemed bleak, "There was a lot of concern on folks faces about the future of the plant, the future of the area."
The plant had layoffs and reduced shifts, but managed to escape closure thanks to the Escape.
With big incentives from the state and concessions from workers ford doubled down on the Louisville Assembly Plant.
Plant Manager Darryl Johnson said, "We invested about $600 six hundred million in this facility to become lean, to become flexible."
The line that limped along a few years ago now goes full speed ahead with the hot selling Escape. The workforce now about four times the size compared to those worst days.
The line at the plant rolls 20 hours a day, producing more than 1,300 Escapes a day. Longtime employees said they have never seen business as good as it is currently.
UAW 862 member Steve Stone who has worked at Ford for 41 years said, "This is the largest workforce we've ever had."
A workforce that now includes William and Glenda Jackson's son, William Jones.
"Never in a million years thought I'd be here working the same place my parents are working," he said. "But here I am and I enjoy it."
"He's really excited to be here and that's all we talked is Ford so he's pretty familiar with the way Ford operates and pretty excited about making a difference in the ford family," his mother said.
A family that's proud to keep a spot open for veterans like Nathan Noel.
Noel did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ford kept his spot open for almost two years while he was serving overseas.
Now instead of fixing military vehicles he's fixing SUVs'.
"It's been a good situation. They gave me some got some training. I'm back on my old job working on night shift, so it's been a good deal," he said.
A deal that just keeps getting sweeter with another more high end vehicle soon to roll out of the Louisville Assembly Plant.
"We're gonna be launching our Lincoln MKC in the plant over the next month or two so that's great news," Fields said. "When you're working and when you're expanding it can't get much better than that."
Well may be not unless you're about to call it a day after more than four decades.
"I'm gonna miss the people without a doubt, but I got a lot of retirees waiting for me out there," he said.
As Stone drove off into the sunset Ford continued to keep rolling, seven days a week, fulfilling orders all over the world.
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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