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Hazelwood plant slated to close

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By Tom Weber, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Ford Motor Company's assembly plant in Hazelwood is again being pegged for closure.

The company this morning announced a re-organization plan for the entire company, which confirmed news reports that had suggested Hazelwood's closure for more than a month.

The move will mean 1,400 lost jobs in the St. Louis region.

Ford, the number-two U.S. automaker lost $1.6 billion in its North American operations last year. Officials announced a restructuring plan this morning that will close 14 plants and eliminate as many as 30,000 jobs.

The automaker has been hurt by falling sales of SUVs. Workers at the Hazelwood plant makes the Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs.

Ford nearly shut down the facility three years ago before a group of lawmakers and civic leaders convinced the company to keep it open through 2007. But with SUV sales declining, Ford shuttered the second shift of the Hazelwood plant in September 2004, eliminating about 800 jobs.

The move was not a surprise to some, like analyst Juli Neimann. "The only reason they didn't was because you had Hazelwood and the state of Missouri giving away the shop.

"They made so many incentives that it was the offer they literally couldn't refuse."

Still, leaders pledged to keep fighting for Hazelwood, despite today's announcement. "Today's announcement is disheartening for our workers, our state and the local communities, but we believe it is not the end of the process," said Gov. Matt Blunt, in a statement. Our communications continue with Ford on how Missouri fits into the company's future plans."

The cuts did not affect Ford's plant in Claycomo, Mo., near Kansas City. Workers there make the F-150 pickup Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUV. The company spent a lot of money to make Claycomo flexible to produce different products.

To hear a report from NPRs Jack Speer, which aired on Morning Edition (before the cuts were announced), click here.

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