Ford Motor Company's decision to close 14 of its North American assembly plants by 2012 will have an impact that goes well beyond the loss of as many as 30,000 jobs. Mike Cooper reports from Atlanta, where about 2,000 workers who build Ford Taurus sedans will soon be jobless.
Officials of the state of Georgia had negotiated with Ford Motor Company during the past four years, hoping to prevent the automaker from closing its 50-year-old factory just a few kilometers from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Last summer, the state government reportedly offered grants, tax reductions, road improvements and the use of public land in an effort to convince Ford to save one of the last auto factories still operating in Georgia.
Workers at the Ford assembly center said the mood was somber after Ford officials in Detroit announced the shutdown. Tina Stowe was almost in tears as she considered the fate of the plant where she has worked for the past 11 years.
"I really hate to see this job go. I mean, because, it is going to hurt," she said.
The plant closing is yet another blow to the economy of Georgia and the area around Atlanta. The nation's largest automaker, General Motors, announced in November that an Atlanta plant that makes minivans will close in the year 2008, putting more 3,000 people out of work. And Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September, has also cut thousands of jobs.
Alan Hallman, the mayor of the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, where Ford's plant is located, says tax revenue from the factory accounts for nine-percent of the city's budget.
"It is a shock to the city," he said. "Ford has been such a part of our town for over 50 years and the loss of this plant is certainly a blow to the city."
The impact is similar in other localities across North America where Ford will close its facilities. In St. Louis, Missouri, where a plant that makes Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer sport utility vehicles will close, and where officials have struggled just as hard to convince the company to continue its local operations, city leaders say they will continue their fight to keep the Ford plant open.