Locations -- Avon Lake, Ohio

Ford Motor Co. will use its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, to produce the Escape, a small SUV.

Plant Ford Motor Co. announced in May that beginning in the summer of 2003 it would begin producing the Ford Escape, a small sport-utility vehicle, at the 3.7 million square-foot Ohio Assembly Plant. The plant, in Avon Lake, Ohio, has been a production site for the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest minivans. However, production of those models is ceasing this summer, a consequence of poor sales. The decision to use the facility saves nearly 900 jobs. In addition, Ford will continue to use 1,200 other Ohio Assembly Plant workers who paint and build bodies for the Econoline and Club Wagon full-size vans assembled in nearby Lorain. Corporate Strategy Ford's Kansas City, Mo., plant currently builds some 260,000 Escape and Tribute models. Ford spokesperson Della DiPietro says production in Kansas City will remain at roughly the same level, and plans call for at least an additional 45,000 Escapes to be produced annually in Avon Lake. Ohio officials have boasted that Ford's decision was the result of an $83 million incentive package offered by the state, but DiPietro says the package includes elements that are of "minimal value" and remains under review. The package reportedly includes tax credits and exemptions, as well as funds for worker training and financing for infrastructure improvements. Ford has not confirmed reports that a hybrid version of the Escape and a Mercury model might also be produced at the Ohio Assembly Plant. Ford expects to begin mass production of the hybrid, which will use both gasoline and electric power, next year. Production Strategy The decision to remain in Avon Lake enables Ford to take advantage of a skilled and experienced workforce at a site that has proven advantageous for the automaker for decades. Avon Lake Mayor Rob Berner says Ford will invest about $80 million in new equipment at the plant to retrofit it for the Escape. He says the portion of the plant complex where the Escape will be assembled is a "fairly new state-of-the-art facility" built only 12 to 15 years ago. He believes the relatively young age of the plant, its capacity and the quality of the workforce are among the reasons Ford chose to stay in Avon Lake. Community Ford is an employment anchor of Lorain County, where Avon Lake is situated. The community has a 44-year history with Ford. Located 18 miles west of Cleveland, Avon Lake is home to about 18,000 residents. The city stretches for five miles along Lake Erie. The total area of the city is about 12 square miles. The Ohio Assembly Plant encompasses an area that extends into the small towns of Sheffield Village and Sheffield Lake. The location offers easy access to Interstate Highway 90 and the Ohio Turnpike. Locations profiles selected siting and facility strategies by manufacturing companies. Send submissions to Senior Editor John S. McClenahen at jmcclenahen@industryweek.com.

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