Ford plant closing ends era in St. Paul

The Ford Ranger that rolled off St. Paul's assembly line Friday morning is no different than the thousands before it.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Ford Ranger that rolled off St. Paul's assembly lineFriday morningis no different than the thousands before it.

But it's the last truck the St. Paul plant will ever make. The truck was driven out of the building by a Ford retiree with a half century inthe building.

"A lot of people were crying," said Moses Mitchell, a plant employee. "It was emotional for a lot of people."

It was especially emotional for those who have been there for decades. In the 1970s, more than 2,000 Minnesotans worked there. Today, it's about 800, and now all of them are unemployed.

Karen Johnson's grandfatherwas among them, as were her aunt and uncle.

"They had great pride in working here," Johnson said.

So on Friday, standingnear the plant's entrance with a sign reading "Ford-ever Grateful,"she's showing her thanks and well wishes for those whose jobs now will be to find new ones.

"There's really nothing else we can do (except) sit back and wait, fill out applications, turn in resumes, be active," said Willie Cooper as he left the plant.

While hundreds of jobs are ending, so is a big part of St. Paul's history. Ford has made cars and trucks here since 1925, starting with the Model T.

"It's built bombers in WWII and tanks and thousands and thousands of cars," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "And, more importantly, (it's) provided wages for families over the years. It's a really sad day."

A sad day, and a proud one, for all the trucks built, and all the memories.

"(It's) kind of a somber deal," said Rick Jacobsen, who worked at the plant for nearly 20 years. "(It's)a sad experience for everybody to be leaving. It's a big hole in Minnesota."

Some of the workers are leaving St. Paul, hoping to find work at another of Ford's plants.

The St. Paul buildingswill be torn down next year, but it's still unclear what will happen to the site.


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