On the St. Paul Ford Plant Shutdown

The Ford Ranger is by far my favorite vehicle. I’m on my third Ranger and was hoping to someday be on my fourth but that desire was shutdown with news of the Ford Plant in St. Paul, the last plant manufacturing Rangers, being mothballed. While this is a bit sad it just means my next vehicle will likely be a Ford F-150, which will piss off the enviro-nazis even more than my current gas guzzler so that will certainly be an upside. Still it was interesting reading the Star Tribune’s piece because at one point they pondered if there was anything the government of Minnesota or St. Paul could have done to save the plant. Their speculations were amusing to me:

Dziczek said another factor was the recent stripping of job security language in UAW contracts.

“It used to cost companies an arm and leg to close plants in the automotive diaspora because they had to continue to pay those workers,” she said. “Without those protections, it became easier to close regional outposts.”

You know what else hurt the Ford plant? Union wages. Don’t get me wrong, if a group of workers want to get together and form a union in the hopes of fighting for better wages and working conditions I’m perfectly fine with it. I’m also perfectly fine with the owners of a company firing everybody attempting to create such a union because that’s what voluntary association means, if either party is unhappy with the association they are free to terminate it.

Either way union labor laws in the United States are a tricky beast and they are entirely on the side of the unions. Some would consider this fact a great win for workers but workers aren’t the ones who make union policies, higher ups in the union are. Union leaders will often tell you that their job is to represent the workers and thus they will make outrageous demands including insanely high wages, pensions, and requirements that promotions be based entirely on seniority. Even though such things sound great for workers it ends up biting them in the ass as the companies paying these benefits are unable to continue operations and eventually have to make a decision; close plants with expensive union labor or face bankruptcy. In either case the workers end up losing their job.

Regardless of what union high ups believe those “greedy corporate bastards” don’t have an infinite line of money in which to pay workers. Many factories don’t pay employees more for the simple fact the employees don’t provide more value to the company. Somebody who gets paid $22.00 and hour to put windshield wiper blades on trucks all day isn’t really bringing $22.00 and hour of value to the company and therefore is costing the company money every hour. When paying your employees loses money you’re in a slowly sinking boat.

Minnesota’s distance from auto parts makers in the Michigan-Ohio rust belt further doomed the St. Paul plant, as parts had to be shipped from far away. Despite those factors, some experts insist the St. Paul Ford plant could have been saved if state leaders had more manufacturing expertise and foresight.

“It was a gross piece of stupidity for the state of Minnesota to let this plant die,” said Fred Zimmerman, a retired University of St. Thomas manufacturing professor.

He said state leaders could have come up with a plan to build an integrated metal stamping facility, perhaps in the sandstone caves below the plant, and that might have helped solve the costly problem of shipping in parts.

If Ford believed construction of such a facility would have been a profitable way to continue I guarantee you that there would be such a facility at that plant. I agree that the state let the plant die but not through inaction. Minnesota isn’t a very business friendly state, the state government loves to bleed corporations for as much money as they can. When a company is faced with ever dwindling income due to state theft you can bet they’re not going to stay in the state for long. California has this exact issue as big players like Electronic Arts and Adobe have been fleeing the state in the hopes of finding greener pastures. Had the state not continue to syphon funds from productive companies we would likely still have flourishing industry as we did in the old days (I’m still surprised how many companies were started in Minnesota). At least Zimmerman had one piece of common sense:

Now, Zimmerman says, leaving out its agriculture sector “Minnesota is, to some extent, a Greece in the making.” Losing high-wage Ford jobs will hurt a state with mounting unfunded public pensions and other budget challenges.

“You have to make things and export them out of the community to pay the bills,” he said. “It’s a great tragedy to lose one of the best places for employment in the entire state.”

An economy that buys but doesn’t sell is one that will be facing failure in quick time. This is a problem in the United States as a whole. The government makes doing business in the United States more difficult with every rule, law, and regulation. Why would a company build a manufacturing plant in the United States when they have to spend millions of dollars on idiotic regulation compliances when they can just contract with a Chinese manufacturer for a fraction of the cost? Who will start a company in the United States when they will be facing huge corporate income taxes where as they’ll face little or none in Hong Kong? You can’t continue to steal from people and expect them to gladly take it. So what’s to be done with the plant? Ford is hoping to sell it to somebody for new development but it seems the mayor of St. Paul wants to hinder that development:

“We still hope to develop this into a little jewel for the metro area, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Bill Klein, a business attorney and task force co-chairman who lives two miles away. “It’s going to be a long process.”

Added Coleman: “We’re not just going to take the first operation that comes in and says they’ll take the whole site and create 200 jobs. That’s not acceptable to anyone.” Among his concerns: replacing Ford’s diverse workforce. “I’ve always been impressed by the number of women of color working in that plant,” he said.

They’re not “going to take the first operation that comes in.” No, instead they’ll likely turn down numerous productive ideas in the hope of finding a developer who will build some fancy looking building that ultimately generate nothing of value. Perhaps Toyota will desire the location, only to be turned down because they don’t have a plan to build some fancy looking tourist attraction. The state (in general, not Minnesota) is the single largest hinderance to business.

Either way so long Ford Plant. I’ll always have fond memories of the Ford Ranger and wish it wouldn’t have to end like this but fully understand continued development of such a vehicle in a hostile business environment isn’t a sustainable possibility.

3 thoughts on “On the St. Paul Ford Plant Shutdown”

  1. Found your blog from…I believe GunFreeZone…

    And this article basically felt like it did a number on my heart and tore it out. I always wanted to own a Ranger (recent grad, driving family minivan) because I kinda wanted a truck but something suitable for the city.

    And because Northern Virginia goes to shit when it snows and I love being able to drive and pick up needed supplies when VDOT has not responded to the snow.

    1. I understand that feeling, the news of the Range being cancelled was sad. Rangers have always been very enjoyable vehicles for me as they’re small enough to be easily maneuvered through a city but also have the advantages of a truck when the winter finally hits. I’ve driven my Ranger through some of the worst weapon imaginable and it’s always pulled me through (three feet of snow were no problem for that little machine).

      On the positive side I’ve heard rumors that Ford will be brining the Ranger’s European cousin to American shores under the moniker F-100. The F-100 is a little larger than a Ranger (which is a bit small honestly) but still smaller than an F-150 so may be a nice vehicle. Then again those are also rumors so who knows?

  2. I mean, with the Frontier beefing up, it’s kinda sad. Dad’s favorite truck was a Nissan Pickup, the model before Frontier, and he dropped it and made it a racer…but I had fond memories of that truck, and I honestly liked small trucks since then.

    Last year, I wanted to ask my dad to trade in our Ford Windstar so I can get my first car, a used Ranger or Frontier, but never got around to it. Finances and whatnot.

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