- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

NORFOLK (AP) — Ford Motor Co. told workers yesterday it will close its Norfolk truck factory during the week of June 25 — an announcement that puts a firm date on shutdown plans first announced in April, union officials said.

A memo signed by plant manager Kevin Gideon and Ed Hay, the chairman of United Auto Workers Local 919, was given to workers yesterday morning.

“I’m not shocked. I had a premonition,” said union President Chris Kimmons. “I was hoping that maybe we could stretch it out until September.”

The plant, which makes F-series pickup trucks, employed more than 2,300 people a year ago. But the company said in October that it would cut that in half by early this year.

The factory now employs more than 1,000 people, Mr. Kimmons said.

The plant’s manufacturing jobs rank among some of the best in the Hampton Roads area, paying an average of $28 an hour.

“I feel a sigh of relief,” said Ernest Lowery, 57, of Chesapeake, a 30-year veteran of the plant. “I know when the drop-dead date is. I can plan for better things.”

The plant originally was scheduled to close next year. But Ford moved up those plans when it announced in September that it would close the plant by the third quarter of this year, which begins July 1.

The move is to restore its North American automobile operations to profitability. Analysts have said the plant’s location made it expensive and time-consuming to ship parts from Midwestern suppliers.

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