By Bill Hudson

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — In 1925, Henry Ford found the perfect spot to make his Model T’s. A natural waterfall to make power, plenty of available water and rail transportation and a pool of skilled labor. Together, all of that combined to make his St. Paul Ford Assembly Plant one of the company’s most productive.

“You became known as the absolute best workforce in the Ford system,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said. “Your dedication and hard work has been recognized and that’s what makes this particularly bitter sweet.”

Mayor Coleman was speaking to a room packed with Ford retirees and current workers. At the company’s training facility, the Ford family gathered to face a grim reality and the end of an era.

“As the years have brought many changes to the plant we’ve also seen difficult shifts in the market segments. By customers and by competition,” said Jeff Wood, Ford’s director of manufacturing.

For 86 years, the plant on the banks of the Mississippi River adjusted through the market’s ups and downs. Every time there was a change in model or method of production, workers retooled their skills. From the first model T’s, workers produced armored cars during World War II, LTD’s and later, full-sized F-150 trucks. In 1985, the plant was retooled once again and began producing the smaller, fuel efficient Ford Ranger pickup truck.

When Ford made the decision it was discontinuing the Ranger truck, it meant the end of the line for workers like Margie Rios.

“At first, people were not really sure if it was closing, but now it’s for sure,” she said. “At first, they were in denial about that.”

Ford’s workforce was family in more ways than one. Third-generation autoworker, Art Wiegele, won’t end his career at the St. Paul plant like his father and grandfather both did.

“I’m one of the lucky ones being transferred. I’m going to Louisville, Kentucky, but it’s not easy,” he said.

Wiegele will pack up his skills and work at another Ford truck plant. Still he says, whenever sparks cease and the noise is silenced, the end is bittersweet.

After a century of auto making in Minnesota, a rich tradition and valued employer will vanish for good. Ford said the final Ranger pickup truck will roll off the assembly line on Dec. 16.

Comments (22)
  1. Johnny Lunchbucket says:

    This speaks to the problem with provincial society standing. They were happy to keep doing it the way they always did it…aka union labor. Now there are no jobs because the mediocre ruled the roost. Wake up MN…say NO to organized labor…aka unemployment and desperation for families. Thanks unions for ruining good jobs for those willing to work hard!

    1. Matt says:

      Unions served to do a lot of good for labor rights, but a lot of them today are just too greedy. I agree they have too much power, but I still think they are needed in some form.

    2. M.P. says:

      Ford sucks they have been making the same style ugly,under powered ,unreliable truck if you even want to call it a truck,what can you do with a little 130 horse power truck that cant even pull a boat, and the f150 is probably the ugliest truck on the road good bye Ford stay closed!

      1. @MP says:

        Hasn’t Ford had the #1 selling truck for like 10 years stright, geez where do you people come from?

      2. Plow says:

        Let me guess MP you took the buyout about 5 years ago, then they stayed open 4 extra years and you’re salty, find an oven and take a nap.

      3. Jason Coll says:

        you suck! duesch. My 2011 F150 pulled 2 Chevy trucks at once yahooooooooo

    3. Ordinary Guy says:

      Don’t be silly, non-union labor couldn’t compete either. The trucks have 80% imported parts in them and so does everything else, more or less. Those laborers making them in the third-world can’t buy them, a billion in China can’t buy half of what we do even when they only support 13% of the price over there. Even Japan outsources.

      They won’t pay their workers more because totalitarians don’t have to. The only way to save our economy is to shift the tax burden the same on both domestics and imported products. That means our representatives have to override the will of the import businessmen. It’s just that simple.

    4. MrOnePercenter says:

      Yes!!! Let’s hear it for everyone who wants to work hard and for cheap with no benefits!!

      I’m all for that. You can come to work for me. I hate those labor unions.

      1. ninetyninedownandonetogo says:

        there is a place for a union and there is a place to not have a union, and the marketplace will make the final choice.

        1. MrOnePercenter says:

          Well at my place, there aren’t any unions. Won’t be any unions. So come on down!!!

          PS: That stuff about free market and how it will “make the final choice”? You just keep right on believing that.

  2. Obv says:

    Hey tree stump, Ford is discontinuing production of the Ford Ranger, it makes closing the plant sort of necessary seeing how thats all they built, but hey way to be informed.

  3. Matt says:

    Hey Remember when Ford discontinued the Taurus? We’ll see how this turns out…

  4. M.P. says:

    Ford Ranger is a joke who in there right mind would spend $20,000 dollars on a little fake truck with no resale value,and that breaks down all the time??????

    1. Mr M.P> says:

      Obviously millions would, you must have been foolish enough to buy a 2 wheel version and now you can’t sell it, dah winning.

    2. Matt says:

      I had a 1993 Ford Ranger. it was a 4×2, speed 5, i4. It never broke down on me. only reason why I sold it was because it had no AC. It had enough power to carry a lot of stuff

  5. BlackMan says:

    BY BY , They should have learn from China. Export Export Export…rather than local sale.

    1. Ordinary Guy says:

      Remember, it’s buy low and sell high. The general population in developing countries don’t have the cash, they don’t make enough and there’s no social support. Europe has their own car industries that they protect tooth-and-nail. China’s strategy is for workers to keep their heads down and shut up, if they don’t like it, there’s a billion others right behind them waiting for the job. That’s what you want to copy? I know you’re joking.

      But you’re right, the solution is to eliminate ALL taxes on our export goods and even the taxes between imports and domestic produced sales here. Otherwise it’s got to be done across the board in wage and benefit cuts, and the same with Social Security and all of the others you want. Prices on the shelf will fall, and all that warehouse product will be worth way less. That’s widespread bankruptcy!

      1. BlackMan says:

        You have no idea if developing nation have cash or not. Have you been there or just watching what TV and internet tels you. If they dont have they wouldnt be buying China, japan and other made cars. Do we have Cash, I Dont think so. I for sur know that we have too much debt. You are just like other american who put junk on simple issues.

        1. Ordinary Guy says:

          I’m not sure I understand all of what you’ve said, though I thank you for your response. My point is that in the US we load all of the social-spending costs, that our representatives in government have voted on, right onto our production costs through income, payroll, property tax, health, etc. Countries that sacrifice that social spending and can control wages to 1/12 of our average wage have an unnatural and toxic advantage over ours. This cannot continue, because if our import/consumer economy fails due to wage pressure, their export economies will fail, as well.

          They won’t find markets as lucrative as ours. Though I can solute the efforts of designers in those countries who’ve made small-engined cars and trucks with turbo technology that does amazing work. Too bad Ford was too cheap to keep up.

  6. Mark says:

    IMO Ford makes a good truck. Not a perfect one but I like them. Thanks St. Paul Assembly workers for the dedication! It’s too bad this has to be a time to put them down!

  7. just sayin says:

    Ford is number 1 because the interior is plastic.

    Makes them more affordable.

    You want quality interior – reliable engine? It is gonna cost more – Nissan Toyota are better.

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