Lawmakers- Keeping Ford plant open 'a long shot'

Saturday, February 2, 2002

CAHOKIA, Ill. -- A contingent of Missouri lawmakers and government leaders returned Friday after visiting with Ford Motor Co. executives, calling hope to keep open the suburban St. Louis assembly plant "a long shot," but one still worth pursuing.

Gov. Bob Holden, along with fellow Democrats House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Sen. Jean Carnahan and others met for about an hour with Ford executives in Dearborn, Mich. Ford announced last month that it would close the Hazelwood plant by mid-decade, leaving about 2,600 employees out of work.

"It's a long shot that we'll get this, but we're going to keep trying," Carnahan said at a news conference at an airport near St. Louis.

Holden called the talks with Ford "frank and open."

"They let us know they have made their decision to close the plant in around 2005," he said.

But Gephardt noted that just about a decade ago, Chrysler announced plans to close its suburban St. Louis plant in Fenton. The economy improved, and things changed.

"Today we have two Chrysler plants in Fenton," Gephardt said. "The factors that led to this conclusion may change. If they change, we've got to be ready to take advantage of that opportunity."

Joining Holden, Carnahan and Gephardt were state Department of Economic Development chief Joe Driskill, St. Louis County Executive Buzz Westfall and the mayors of Hazelwood and nearby Florissant.

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