Ford says no turning back on St. Paul plant closure

Despite a last-ditch, bi-partisan plea from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Ford Motor Company's St. Paul truck plant is now all but certain to be shuttered in 2011.

The two politicos made what turned out to be a fruitless trek to Dearborn, Mich., today to lay out a final pitch to keep the former Ranger pickup truck assembly line running.

Part of the pitch included a law passed in April that exempted the plant from a whole range of income, property and sales taxes, along with tax credits for new jobs.

But in the end that wasn't enough, Ford said today. The St. Paul facility would cost too many hundreds of millions of dollars to bring up to snuff, and besides, it's simply too far from the kind of efficient supply chains Ford is mapping out for its future.

"At this time, the Twin Cities Assembly Plant does not fit into our global manufacturing strategy," said Mark Fields, Ford's Americas president.

And so the Twin Cities Assembly Plant, Ford's oldest, is finished. It's a sad end to a plant commissioned by Henry Ford because of the lure of cheap hydroelectric power from the nearby Mississippi River. The Highland Park facility opened in 1924, and at its height in 1998 some 2,000 workers pumped out 300,000 Ranger pickup trucks.

Now what happens to the 125-acre site? St. Paul has set up a Ford Site Planning Task Force to explore the options about how replace a plant that was once one of its major economic engines.

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