When an automobile company starts clearing space on the plant floor, it is often a sign there is a new project on the way.
About 350 square feet of floor space is now being cleared at the Lima Ford Engine Plant. No one would say on Friday for what purpose, if any, but United Automobile Workers union Local 1219 President Jay Bell likes the potential.
“We’ve established a good reputation here,” Bell said. “The company knows we can produce. We’re always looking for ways to better the future of this plant.”
Bell has been the union president for around a year at Ford and likes what he sees happening locally as well as nationally. Among things of note:
•The Lima plant expects to hire about 100 to 150 employees in coming months, given the demand for the new F-150 pickup. Hourly employment is now around 1,150, Bell said, with between 150 to 200 people hired last year. The F-150 has been the best selling vehicle in the United States for 32 straight years. It’s ramping up for big things in 2015 with an all new aluminum body and a new turbocharged V-6 engine being built in Lima.
•Ford is paying $6,900 in profit sharing to each of its 50,180 UAW employees. Despite a challenging year in 2014, the company saw its earnings per share of 26 cents exceed Wall Street’s expectations by 3 cents.
•Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields’ prediction that the investments into 16 new vehicles made in 2014 will bring a “breakthrough year” in 2015 appears on target. Analysts say Ford just finished its best January since 2005.
•This week Ford announced as many as 500 of its entry level union workers will see their wage jump from $19.28 an hour to $28.50 an hour. That’s because Ford has exceeded the cap of entry-level employees in its 2011 contract with the UAW. While none of the hundred or so entry-level workers hired in Lima a few years ago have yet to qualify for the increase, they are getting closer as Ford continues to build its workforce, Bell said.
Bell said the new jobs in Lima are being filled by workers from down-sized or closed plants in Texas, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. He estimates that as many as 90 percent of those workers have relocated to the Lima region with the rest commuting from places such as Sandusky.
“The bottom line is these workers are pumping a lot of money in our community in the homes and goods they buy or the apartments they rent,” Bell said. “All the new workers seem to be getting along with the people who have been here a while.
“The Lima plant has been blessed and we are working hard to take advantage of it,” Bell added. “We just have to keep after it.”
ROSES AND THORNS: Soldiers and dads find a spot in the rose garden.
Rose: A large Lima Senior banner is proudly on display at a military outpost in Afghanistan, thanks to five Lima Senior graduates stationed there: Sgt. Jared Vezina (Class of 2002), Staff Sgt. David Neal (2005), Spc. Ricky Martin (2009), Spc. David Duran (2011) and Private Taylor Bennett (2011).
Rose: More than 200 people showed up Saturday for the Father Daughter Valentine Dance at the Lima YMCA, which is held for girls up to the age of 12.
Rose: To Brenda Schroeder, of Columbus Grove. She has been appointed executive director of Lima’s Samaritan House, replacing Marilyn Cipollone, who retired. The facility serves homeless women and children.
Rose: To the Perry Commodore boys’ basketball team and the Bath Wildkittens girls’ basketball team. Coach Matt Tabler’s Perry squad has the area’s longest winning streak in boys’ basketball at 14 games. Bath Coach Greg Mauk’s team, meanwhile, won its 40th straight Western Buckeye League game last week.
Thorn: A Lima man arriving home from the bar thought he would sneak up on his woman friend and scare her as she was washing the dishes. He succeeded, evident by his stab wounds and trip to the Lima Memorial Health System’s emergency room.
Thorn: To Andrew Vasquez, of Ottawa. His getaway from alledgedly stealing three vehicles was thwarted after he crashed the third vehicle in Allen County. Deputies followed his footprints in the snow to a nearby residence, where he was arrested.
Thorn: To Richard Strunkenberg, the former Van Wert County dog warden who was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Sheriff’s deputies found his facility to have “a strong odor of decaying animal and animal feces” that later was described as “overpowering.”
PARTING SHOT: Be careful of the person who boasts he does the work of three men. He’s usually talking about Larry, Curly and Moe.