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Obama visit to spotlight Ford workers in Claycomo

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CLAYCOMO, Mo. -- Kansas City workers are in the national spotlight this week as President Obama visits the new Ford stamping plant in the northland.

The president on Friday is expected to propose a "better bargain for the middle class" when he speaks to Ford workers.

But some are questioning why the president is taking credit for Ford's success.  Ford is the only one of the so-called "Big Three" American automakers that did not receive taxpayer money to survive the recession.

The United Auto Workers union praises President Obama's leadership for helping the industry bounce back.

"He could have sat on his hands," said Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249, which represents Ford workers at it's Kansas City plant.

"He didn't, he went out there.  It would not have affected just GM and Chrysler. It would have affected everybody that builds autos in the United States. I appreciate the effort he put in to save the auto industry,"  Wright explained.

Ford is now hiring 1,600 new workers for a new stamping plant that soon will create parts for the Ford Transit commercial van.  In addition, Ford has rehired hundreds of previously laid-off workers to add a third shift to the F-150 pickup truck line at Claycomo.

Last week, Ford's marketing manager said the third shift is coming online just in time to meet surging demand.  Ford said it's selling F-150 pickups this year nearly as fast as it can make them.

"I think the president always deserves some credit," said Jim Hampton, executive director of the Clay County Economic Development Council. "He's the man in charge. He sets the tempo. In addition to the president, you have the governor.  You have the state legislature.  You have local folks that work here.  There was quite a team.  It was really fun to watch the team come together."

The Ford expansion is the largest economic development project in the history of Clay County.  Hampton told FOX 4 News suppliers are already moving into the area to set up operations to modify the commercial vans into ambulances, delivery trucks and other specialized uses.

The White House said President Obama's visit to the Ford plant will highlight the progress the nation is continuing to make in the last five years, since the beginning of the financial crisis.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and state lawmakers also are expected to receive a lot of thanks for the Ford expansion.  The governor made incentives to encourage auto manufacturing in the Show-Me state his top priority and elected representatives agreed, creating and passing the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act law.

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