FLAT ROCK, Mic. - The sun was shining brightly and so were the smiles from the crowd assembled in Flat Rock Monday, as Ford celebrated the renaming of AutoAlliance International to Flat Rock Assembly Plant and the addition of 1,200 hourly jobs to produce the 2013 Ford Fusion.
Click here to watch video of the event.
More than 1,500 Flat Rock workers were joined by Ford executives, UAW officials and government dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Congressman John Dingell, who fired up the crowd with an emotionally charged speech.
“We’ve gone through some dark days but we’ve come out it, and we’ve shown that you can’t keep a good man or a good woman down,” said Dingell, who has been a long-time advocate of the auto industry on Capitol Hill. “We’ve also shown that American workers are so good that we’re going to bring jobs back from Mexico and bring them right back here to Michigan.”
Mark Fields, Ford’s President of The Americas, emphasized the importance of bringing production of the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion to Flat Rock.
“It’s an all-out battle for the American garage, and I can tell you that Ford is in it to fight to win,” he said. “We’ve doubled our share since we launched the Fusion back in 2006 and five out of the eight months this year we’ve set all-time sales records for the Fusion. So we have a great foundation.”
Flat Rock Assembly is now under the full management control of Ford. In addition to adding 1,200 new hourly jobs tied to Fusion production, the company is investing $555 million to build a state-of-the-art, fully flexible body shop at Flat Rock capable of producing multiple vehicles.
The company is also upgrading the plant’s paint shop with an environmentally friendly 3-Wet paint process, which allows three layers of paint to be applied one after another while still wet – with less manual intervention – resulting in a superior product created with fewer pollutants and less expense.
Employees cheered numerous times during Monday’s celebration, showing obvious excitement about the future of Ford and their future as Ford employees.
“We’ve always wanted to be part of Ford, so we got our wish today,” said Mike Staley, a new model trainer who has worked at the Flat Rock plant since it opened under Mazda 25 years ago. “We feel secure with our jobs, and I love it. I can go out with a good retirement now and not worry about it.”
Tim Fant, a member of the Body Launch team, has also worked at the plant for 25 years. Like Staley, he feels a renewed sense of security about his upcoming retirement.
“It pretty much solidifies our position in the company and sets us up for retirement,” he said. “We have product to allow us to get our 30 years in, so it’s a great day.”
Cindy Parkhurst, a team leader in Material Handling and a 25-year employee, says she’s thrilled to see production of the new Fusion come to Flat Rock.
“I can’t wait for that car,” she said. “It’s a beautiful car and I can’t wait to get started on it. We’re looking at a bright future whereas before it was not looking so good. So I’m happy for that.”
But it wasn’t just the 25-year employees who were charged up and celebrating. Jacer Aguilar, who works in Human Resources, has been with the plant for eight months.
“It seems like a huge step, not only within the region of Michigan knowing that more jobs are being created, but within Ford it’s showing that they’re making a huge step to get a lot of people working and they’re expanding,” she said. “So it’s a good thing not only for the local economy but for Ford itself.”
Opened in 1987 as Mazda Motor Manufacturing USA, the plant in Flat Rock first produced the Mazda MX-6. In 1992, Ford purchased a 50 percent share in the plant and it was renamed AutoAlliance International. Over the years, the plant produced the Mazda 626, Mazda6, Mercury Cougar and Ford Probe. Production of the iconic Ford Mustang was shifted to the plant in 2005.