Ford adding 2,000 jobs at Kentucky Truck Plant for all-new Super - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ford adding 2,000 jobs at Kentucky Truck Plant for all-new Super Duty

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Ford's 2017 F-series Super Duty trucks will have an aluminum-alloy body. Ford's 2017 F-series Super Duty trucks will have an aluminum-alloy body.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  Ford Motor Co. is adding 2,000 jobs and investing $1.3 billion in its Kentucky Truck Plant in eastern Jefferson County in preparation for making the all-new 2017 F-series Super Duty pickup trucks next year, Ford officials announced at the plant on Tuesday.

Hiring is underway while the capital investments -- such as a new body to support the Super Duty’s shift to aluminum – are nearly complete, according to Kentucky Truck Plant manager Joe Bobnar.

Kentucky Truck employs about 4,420 hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers’ Local 862 and another 227 salaried workers, according to Ford.

About 500 employees have been added this year with another 1,500 to come on by next summer just before production of the 2017 Super Duty begins, Bobnar said.

Applications are being accepted at the Kentucky Career Center, or state employment office, in downtown Louisville, 600 W. Cedar Street.

Ford also has a number of referrals – siblings, cousins, friends – of current hourly workers in the hiring pool, according to the UAW Local 862 President Todd Dunn.

Among the new hires is Justin Miller, a recent graduate of Spencer County High School, who joined KTP about a month ago after working a movie theater. Miller works in the paint shop, where he looks for defects in the new trucks’ paint jobs.

“Coming out of high school, you can’t really beat it,” he said, adding that he hopes to work at the plant a long time.

KTP will add a third shift to Final Assembly area, which Bobnar calls “probably the most manually labor intensive part of the vehicle process.” That’s where engines, transmissions, instrument panels and seats are added.

The revamped Super Duty trucks – which Ford unveiled in September --  will begin rolling off the line at KTP and going on sale late next year.

Like their smaller cousin the F-150, Ford’s next-generation Super Duty trucks (the F-250 through F-550) will have a body made of aluminum – not steel.

Ford has said the shift to the aluminum body cut the weight of the trucks by about 350 pounds. But most of the weight savings were made up by the trucks’ “bigger axles, bigger powertrain, bigger towing capacity,” Bobnar said.

Tuesday’s announcement came two weeks after UAW 862 workers in Louisville rejected a new four-year labor contract with Ford by a 2:1 margin.

The contract ended up being ratified after enough workers at other Ford plants around the country voted in favor of it.

Several veteran UAW workers in Louisville thought the new contract did not make up enough for their lack of raises over the last eight years.

“We did get a raise (in the 2015 contract). It wasn’t as much as we should have gotten,” said Patty Schmitt, who has worked at KTP for 20 years and attended Tuesday’s press conference.

Patricia Fields, another KTP veteran, shares Schmitt’s concern.

“I’m just going to deal with it. I’m OK with it. You can’t turn back,” she said.

Both said the additional jobs at KTP is something to cheer.

“The more people, the better it is. Keep growing,” Schmitt said.

To drum up support for the contract, Ford announced it would invest billions in its U.S. plants in future years -- including $600 million at KTP.

But Bobnar said the upgrades to make the new Super Duty were promised when the 2011 contract was ratified. The additional $600 million represents future investments that will be disclosed later, Bobnar said.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

In addition to the Super Duty trucks, KTP also produces the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

The Super Duties are the plant’s main product. In 2014, KTP made nearly 297,300 F-Series trucks, 62,454 Expeditions and 12,502 Navigators.

Ford’s last announcement at KTP came in January 2014, when the company said it would spend $80 million and add 350 jobs to boost Super Duty production by 15 percent because to meet demand.

Tuesday’s announcement came as a parting gift for Gov. Steve Beshear, who has prioritized support of the auto industry during his eight years in office.

Kentucky has previously promised Ford up to $290 million in taxpayer money if the company invested at least $1.8 billion in its two Louisville plants by the end of 2017 and maintain at least 8,700 employees between the two plants.

The incentive agreement dates to 2007, when the Kentucky General Assembly sweetened auto manufacturing incentives to prevent Ford from closing Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road, where the company now makes the Escape SUV.

“When we came and needed help, they were quick to respond,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said about the state legislature, former Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Beshear.

“It’s easy to say you want manufacturing jobs. It’s not so easy to say, we’re going to find a way to help to make it happen,” Hinrichs said. “…Anytime we needed something, (Beshear) was quick to return the phone call. That’s the kind of relationship you want to have.”

Asked whether he’s spoken to Gov.-elect Matt Bevin, who takes office next week, Hinrichs said, “I will be soon.”

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All rights reserved. 

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