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St. Paul’s Ford Plant to stay open until at least 2011

St. Paul’s Ford Plant will stay open and continue making Ford Ranger pick-ups for two more years — until 2011 — the Detroit automaker said this morning.

The plant was scheduled to close next year, and hundreds of workers had taken buyouts. There have been extensive discussions about how to redevelop the valuable Highland Park property near the Mississippi River.

For the rest of the world, the big news from Ford’s second-quarter financial report was the loss of nearly $9 billion. The Associated Press reports that the company also announced that it will bring six European small-car models to North America by the end of 2012 as it deals with a market shift from trucks to cars brought on by high gasoline prices. The company also will retool two more U.S. truck and sport utility vehicle plants to build small, fuel-efficient vehicles.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in  a statement lauded the local plant’s extended lease on life:

“This is great news for the City of Saint Paul.  Ford has been an integral part of our community for more than 80 years, with a legacy of providing good jobs in Saint Paul — a legacy we are working to extend as long as possible.  Ford’s decision to extend operations through 2011 at the St. Paul plant is very welcome news for the workers and their families of those employed at the plant and for our community.

“We’re increasingly hopeful about the role Saint Paul’s Ford plant and its world-class workforce can play in the future of the company and in our economy.  With our partners on the state and federal levels, we have worked faithfully with Ford to find the best fit for the future of the Ford plant site, with our priority on retaining the existing plant.  We will continue to push Ford to make strategic investments to keep the plant open and producing vehicles that consumers want to buy and employees are proud to build.

“With this extension in place, we will continue our partnership with Ford and the State to look at future opportunities to extend the life of the plant.  We know that the highly skilled and creative workforce in our City and at the plant can easily retrain and retool to meet market demands.

“The City appreciates the work of the United Auto Workers, Saint Paul plant employees, State and Federal partners, and Ford Motor Company in advocating for the continued operation of the St. Paul plant. In difficult economic times, the City celebrates the retention of high quality jobs for our families and our community.”

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