Twin Cities Assembly Plant
Vehicles lie outside the 148-acre Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant April 13, 2006 in St. Paul (Getty Images, File)
Employees at the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul leave from work on a shift change at the plant. (Pioneer Press, File)
Workers at the Ford Motor Co. plant in St. Paul got the word Monday: The 86-year-old facility will close Dec. 19.
About 800 employees will be affected when the company shuts down the Twin Cities Assembly Plant, where it builds the Ranger pickup truck.
Ford has long planned to close the plant in the city's Highland Park neighborhood, but until Monday, no date had been announced.
Jim Eagle, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 879, which represents St. Paul workers, was in tears after the company gave union officials the news.
"Everybody expected it, but until it comes, you just don't know how you're going to react, " said Eagle, a 24-year employee who said he doesn't know what he'll do next.
The closing affects 769 hourly employees and about 40 supervisors, Eagle said.
Union officials posted the afternoon notice at the plant.
Ford is discontinuing the Ranger line in the U.S. Industry observers say the company wants to emphasize the more fuel-efficient versions of the larger F-150 truck.
A Ford spokeswoman confirmed the planned closing date. But Ford workers leaving the plant Monday were just learning of it.
Lamar McInnis of St. Paul said he's hoping for a transfer to another Ford plant after working at the Highland Park facility for 3-1/2 years.
"It's sad that this is what it has come to, " said McInnis, 22, "but this is a great job, and I love what I do."
Jesse Cloman, 27, of Minneapolis, who plans to go back to school to learn another skill, will end a Ford family tradition. "My dad worked here, and most of my family, " he said.
After working at the plant since 1992, Jeff Hansen will be back on the job market. "I'm a little nervous, since I'm about to be out of a job, " said Hansen of Vadnais Heights.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said he was saddened by the announcement, which had been projected for December 2011 for some time.
"My thoughts are with Ford employees and their families today, " Coleman said in a statement. "Since the first Model T rolled off the line 86 years ago, Ford has impacted the history, character and livelihood of Saint Paul."
Last year, state and local officials led a delegation to the automaker's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., to make a final pitch for the plant. A Ford official said at the time that the plant didn't fit into Ford's global manufacturing strategy.
The officials said Ford emphasized the long-term decline of truck sales, as well as the potentially insurmountable issue of geography, with Minnesota being outside the traditional supply-chain corridor.
Ford plans to put the 122-acre property near the Mississippi River on the market in mid-2012, a company official said.
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