AVON LAKE - A new product and a flexible body shop await Avon Lake`s Ohio Assembly Plant, and city officials from the three cities the plant straddles are ready to work together as Ford Motor Co. moves forward with plans that could keep thousands of jobs at the plant for years to come.
Last week, Sheffield Lake Mayor John Piskura, and mayors-elect John Hunter of Sheffield and Karl "KC" Zuber of Avon Lake attended what is being termed a meet-and-greet at the Avon Lake plant. Union and plant officials - including plant manager Joe Lee - and a representative for U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, all attended the 45-minute meeting Thursday.
"It feels really good to know that for the first time ever all three cities are on the same page, which is for the betterment of the future of the Ohio Assembly Plant, Lorain County and the state," said Nick Gallogly, chairman of UAW Local 2000.
Tim Donovan, president of UAW Local 2000, agreed: "In the past, it has been everyone for himself, but there is going to be a group effort going forward to make sure the Ohio Assembly Plant is here for the long term."
The meeting comes just weeks after a new four-year contract between Ford and about 54,000 workers represented by the UAW was ratified with overwhelming support from union members across the country.
In exchange for wage cuts and concessions, Ford promised in the new contract not to close any U.S. plants beyond those already identified, as well as bring future products to six assembly plants - including the Avon Lake plant - and make hundreds of millions of dollars` worth of improvements to factories.
The Avon Lake plant, where the Econoline van is made, had been on the chopping block before the contract was hammered out. But it gained new life through the contract with the promise of the flexible body shop expansion and a new product, which company officials have not identified.
No one would comment on how plans for the flexible body shop expansion or new product fit into the meeting, which was roundly described as positive.
Hunter, who has been making the rounds with all key business leaders in the village since getting elected, said the objective of the meeting was to show Ford and union officials that all the cities that benefit from the plant are ready to aid the plant in any way possible.
"We all have the same issues, so why not work together and talk to each other," Hunter said. "Why not offer our hand when they are expanding the body shop so we can let them know we want them to stay."
Ford`s importance to the county, region and state doesn`t go unnoticed, Zuber said.
"A lot of the key decisions are made directly between the union and Ford with incentives coming down from Columbus, but we want them to know we will work with them in every possible way," Zuber said.
Lorain Mayor-elect Tony Krasienko and Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, who was re-elected in November, were invited to the meeting, but were unable to attend.
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