Officials hope to redevelop Ford site

Edison plant is
scheduled for shutdown in February

Staff Writer

Edison plant is
scheduled for shutdown in February
Staff Writer

JEFF GRANIT staff The Ford Motor Co. announced it will be closing the Edison assembly plant on Route 1 on Feb. 27.JEFF GRANIT staff The Ford Motor Co. announced it will be closing the Edison assembly plant on Route 1 on Feb. 27.

EDISON— Up to 900 workers could lose their jobs or be forced to transfer out of state when the Ford Motor Co. plant shuts its doors next year.

"Employees have been notified that Feb. 27 is the last work day," said Kathleen Hamilton, a Ford company spokeswoman.

There are about 800 hourly and 100 salaried workers currently employed at the Edison site, located on 102 acres at 939 Route 1 south, Hamilton said.

"While [the closing of the plant] is unwelcome news, the good news is that Ford has worked with the UAW (Unified Auto Workers) to address employee concerns and provide employee assistance programs, benefits and early retirement options," Mayor George Spadoro said in a statement issued Oct. 2.

Ford is looking to sell the 102 acres where the plant currently sits, Hamilton said.

"Marketing and environmental studies are under way and we are working with the township of Edison to find a use that fits in with the township’s master plan and its concerns about such things as traffic congestion and land use," she said.

The site offers a "unique redevelopment opportunity" for the township, Spadoro said.

"My office has been made aware by Ford that they have seen an active interest in the marketing of this property for redevelopment," Spadoro said.

"Indeed, I believe, based on our conversations with Ford, our own research and the plant’s location, this site, when it is redeveloped, will generate even greater tax revenue for Edison than we currently collect from Ford," he said.

Spadoro said he hopes for the redevelopment plan to be started in 2004.

"We are making every effort to find jobs for all employees who choose to transfer. Some will retire and some will want to stay in the area for family or other reasons, and we hope that employers in the area will consider these highly motivated and trained people," Hamilton said.

The company hopes most of the employees choose to transfer to other plants, she said.

Employees who want to be transferred to other Ford plants will be put on a preferred hiring list. As jobs become available around the country, the former employees of the plant will have preferential treatment, said Jim Shaw, president of the United Auto Workers Local 980 chapter. "As positions become available, they will be able to go to different locations," Shaw said.

Ford also will hold a job fair later this year to introduce the workers to the community, Hamilton said.

One shift was eliminated in 2002, Hamilton said. The loss of the shift eliminated about 700 jobs from the Edison plant.

"Even though we lost a shift, we didn’t have anyone at laid off," Shaw said. Everyone was either transferred or retired.

There are many reasons why Ford has decided to shut down the plant, Hamilton said.

"Worldwide overcapacity in the auto industry and a particular decline in the small truck market" are just two reasons for the closing, she said.

"This closing is part of Ford Motor Co.’s revitalization, in which we pledged to eliminate 1 million units of capacity and improve our financial picture," Hamilton said.

The plant has been operating since 1948. Last year it produced 172,390 cars.

Since 1991, the plant has produced Ford Ranger pickup trucks. In the past, the plant has made Lincoln/Mercury, Falcons, Comets, Mustangs, Pintos, Bobcats, and Escorts.

"The Ford Ranger will continue to be assembled at Ford’s Twin Cities assembly plant in St. Paul, Minn.," Hamilton said.

According to Shaw, the mood at the plant is down.

"It’s a traumatic thing," he said. "People are down about it, but they continue to make good Ford products."