Week of July 30, 2001
Blockbuster Deal of the Week
from Site Selection's exclusive New Plant database
Ford AddingBy JACK LYNE
$375 Million Expansion at Norfolk
Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing NORFOLK, Va. -- After almost a year of local speculation, Ford Motor Co. (www.ford.com) has pulled the project trigger, announcing a US$375 million, 350,000-sq.-ft. (31,500-sq.-m.) expansion of its assembly plant in Norfolk, Va.
The announcement's timing, however, may strike some observers as strange, since slumping demand is casting an increasingly large shadow across the American auto industry. In addition, Ford is still wresting with the costs of the Firestone recall.
Ford officials, however, made a convincing case for the project, the biggest single investment in Norfolk's history.
"It just shows how proud we are of this manufacturing facility here in Norfolk, even in the uncertain times that we've got in the current economy, to make this commitment," said Anne Stevens, vice president of Ford's North American assembly operations, at the Norfolk press conference announcing the expansion. "Norfolk is one of Ford's lead manufacturing facilities, and we have cascaded the best practices it has established across the rest of the company."
The facts do indicate that the Norfolk operation has been a model of efficiency. Not to mention its longevity, which is along the lines of Cal Ripken Jr. Ford opened its initial assembly plant in Norfolk in 1925, only 12 years after Henry Ford Sr. shook up the auto world by implementing the assembly line.
F-Series No. 1 for 19 YearsAnother major rationale for adding the 350,000-sq.-ft. body shop is the Norfolk plant's production of Ford's F-series pickup. The F-series has ranked as the best-selling vehicle - car or truck - in the United States for 19 consecutive years.
The Norfolk plant has exclusively built the F-series since 1974, and was already running on overtime. The expansion, which will add a projected 200 jobs, will enable the Norfolk operation to produce the F-150 pickup with the latest manufacturing technologies.
"This expansion will help us maintain world-class productivity and quality levels. It allows us to capitalize on an outstanding work force and an outstanding product," said Mike Hom, Norfolk plant manager.
The Norfolk plant's productivity was confirmed in the Harbour Report (www.harbourinc.com), one of the most widely respected ratings of manufacturing productivity. The 2001 Harbour Report ranked the Norfolk plant as North America's second-most productive factory in the full-size truck sector. The Virginia operation trailed only GM's plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. The Norfolk plant last year averaged 21.77 worker hours in assembling a finished vehicle. The average time per vehicle in North America's 12 full-size truck plants was more than 33 hours, the Harbour Report found. Ford has other facilities building the F-series in Cuautitlan, Mexico; Kansas City; and Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
The Norfolk area has also provided a strong labor supply for Ford. Officials at the Norfolk plant said that they had 10,000 job applications on file even before the expansion was announced. Relations between labor and management have also been comparatively calm. The Norfolk plant has not had a walkout since 1976, during the last nationwide UAW strike at Ford.
$12 Million in IncentivesThe state and city will provide $12 million in incentives for the expansion, including:
Added Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, "For more than 75 years, the city has enjoyed an excellent relationship with Ford Motor Co. and the world-class employees who work at Ford's Norfolk assembly plant. We are exceedingly proud that Ford has determined to grow and strengthen that relationship by making the largest single investment in the history of Norfolk."
The new employees should be working in the Norfolk plant by early 2003, Ford officials said. The expansion will also likely expand Virginia's supplier sector. The state now has more than 100 auto suppliers, which employ some 26,000 workers.
©2001 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.