Gov. Steve Beshear poses with Joe Hinrichs, Ford vice president for The Americas, next to the all new Super Duty at the Kentucky Truck Plant.

Gov. Steve Beshear poses with Joe Hinrichs, Ford vice president for The Americas, next to the all new Super Duty at the Kentucky Truck Plant.

Ford Motor Co. will invest $1.3 billion in the Kentucky Truck Plant to prepare for the next-generation F-Series Super Duty. By the second quarter of next year, the company also will hire 2,000 people who will earn at least $17 per hour.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s vice president of The Americas, got a standing ovation from local and state officials and hundreds of Ford employees when he made the announcement Tuesday morning at the Louisville plant. Hinrichs stood near the new Super Duty, which the company recently unveiled at the State Fair of Texas.

Hinrichs said the new Super Duty comes with a new high-strength steel frame, an aluminum-alloy body and stronger axles and springs.

Ford 2017 Super Duty.

Ford 2017 Super Duty.

He said the investments will allow Ford to build an all-new body shop and upgrade other parts of the facility to prepare for “what we know will be high demand” for the new truck, which will go on sale late next year.

“And,” Hinrichs said, “all of this success is a testament to all of you who have helped make Louisville such an important part of Ford for a very long time.”

Dignitaries made a special effort to recognize the hard work and dedication of the plant’s roughly 4,600 employees — and to praise outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear, whose support over the years proved indispensable, Hinrichs said.

Record business investments

Beshear said that with Ford’s announcement, the state already has broken last year’s record business investment of $3.7 billion.

The governor said Tuesday’s event was the result of many years of cultivating relationships with Ford leaders, particularly during the recession.

When companies were closing plants, Kentucky officials invested time and energy to assure that Ford could thrive, he said.

“We wanted to make sure that we gave Ford every opportunity not only to stay here, but to grow here,” Beshear said. “And look at where we are.”

“What a wonderful way to cap off my eight years as the commonwealth’s governor,” he said.

But he also sang his swan song with a touch of humor: “As many of you know, this is my last week in office. And I’m just glad that there’s going to be 2,000 more jobs here because I’m looking for another gig.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said that Ford’s investments will reverberate throughout the community, because they will produce another 10,000 jobs for suppliers.

In addition, the new employees will continue the company’s strong tradition of supporting the community through volunteer work and philanthropy. And, Fischer said, the investments signify that a major corporation has chosen Louisville for one of its manufacturing hubs.

“It says a lot about the future of the city,” he said.

Workers’ reaction

Ford workers said the company’s commitments filled them with pride — but they also said the investment meant job security for years to come.

“It’s very exciting,” said Holly Newport, who has worked for the company for 20 years, including the last 15 in the paint shop at KTP.

The investment means job security and will help support retirees, Newport added.

Employees at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant await the announcement of $1.3 billion in new investments.

Employees at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant await the announcement of $1.3 billion in new investments.

Shaun Smith recently moved from Detroit to continue his work on the new Super Duty. Smith, who works in finance and was part of the team that launched the new truck, said it was gratifying to participate in the actual launch event.

“It feels great to contribute so much to this area,” he said.

Ford officials said potential applicants for the new positions should inquire at the Kentucky Career Center. New hires will earn a starting wage of $17 per hour, but will receive raises every year and are scheduled in their eighth year to earn $28 per hour, or about $58,000 for a 40-hour work week.

The new salaries are part of a new four-year contract that United Auto Workers union members nationwide ratified Nov. 20. Ironically, two-thirds of KTP members rejected the contract, but they were outvoted by UAW members nationwide.

Newport said the consensus among the KTP workers was that the new contract was not enough to make up for the sacrifices the workers had made in the last decade, especially during the recession. Long-time employees, for example, had lost their cost-of-living adjustments. And, Newport said, she and other employees had gone without a raise for 12 years.

“It’s been a struggle,” she said.

In the new contract, Ford also pledged to invest $9 billion in plants nationwide, including $1.3 billion into the KTP and the Louisville Assembly Plant. The investments announced on Tuesday, however, date back to an earlier contract, Hinrichs said.

Ford officials declined to provide details about when the investments from the new contract might be made.

Todd Dunn, president of United Auto Workers Local 862, said the new jobs will support 2,000 local families, while the additional income will help local businesses, and additional tax dollars will help improve local roads and schools.