When the announcement came last December that Ford Motor Co. was investing $1.3 billion in its Kentucky truck plant, it capped a year of manufacturing successes that buoyed the commonwealth’s slow but steady rebound from the 2008 financial meltdown.
In the March 2016 issue, The Lane Report noted job postings for advanced manufacturing saw a 43 percent jump during the closing months of 2015 versus the previous year.
A 2014 report published by the University of Kentucky said Bureau of Labor Statistics data pinpointed a misperception that manufacturing is a declining sector across the state and nationwide. Although manufacturing GDP has dropped steadily since 1948 (mainly due to technology), the sector remains quite viable.
Proclaiming October 2015 as Kentucky’s Manufacturing Month, former Gov. Steve Beshear recognized the sector’s vibrant role in the state’s economic fabric.
“Manufacturing stands as a pillar of Kentucky’s economic success, and the industry has seen substantial growth in recent years,” Beshear said. “Every dollar spent in manufacturing in the commonwealth generates 44 cents toward our state’s economy.”
Ford is investing $1.3 billion for an all-new body shop, facility upgrades and retooling to build an aluminum-bodied Super Duty truck at Kentucky Truck Plant. Add to that the $80 million invested in 2014 to meet growing customer demand for Super Duty trucks and $129 million to support Lincoln MKC production at Louisville Assembly Plant, and Ford has invested more than $1.5 billion in the commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Louisville in the past two years.
Data sourced from market reports produced by LIFT (Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow) and WIN (Workforce Intelligence Network) indicate Kentucky’ most in-demand lightweighting-related occupations included:
• Logistics Workers (1,427 postings)
• Assembly & Operation
• Electrical & Mechanical Engineering (1,162 postings)
• Skilled Materials Workers (1,000)
• Process Engineering & Testing (251 postings).
The expansion comes at a time when truck sales are outpacing cars at dealer lots across the country. The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford’s “F” series was the top-selling vehicle in the country in March 2016, with sales of 73,884 – an increase of 9.1 percent over the same period last year. In the study, Ford ranked second behind General Motors and ahead of Toyota since January 2015 in terms of overall vehicle sales.
“With the introduction of the all-new Ford Super Duty, America’s best-selling heavy-duty pickup, we expect to continue growing our truck leadership,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas. “Through this investment, we are continuing to show our commitment to Kentucky and the city of Louisville, as well as bringing to customers industry-leading trucks to help them take care of business and earn a living.”
Ford’s investment in the Kentucky Truck Plant, which opened in 1969, is predicted to add about 2,000 new jobs in the manufacturing sector, an industry that saw a boost in 2015. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kentucky’s year-over-year manufacturing jobs were up 3.1 percent last December, with the Louisville Metro’s rate climbing by 3.6 percent.