Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Ford Has A Better Idea: Export Manufacturing to Non-Green Countries

Energy, Environment, Going Green, Government / Bureaucracy, TAXES, THE ECONOMY, Unintended consequences

Sunday we returned from a few days in Dearborn Michigan touring the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and The Rouge Ford Factory. The Rouge Factory Tour was new to us. There was Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry, up on the BIG screen telling us how Ford created this new Rouge factory to be friendly to the environment.

Much like our proposed Fountain Brook Crossing, The Rouge Ford Factory* has Gone Green. The roof is a garden roof, planted with sedum plants to absorb the rain water. They are increasing plantings wherever possible on the grounds; nets are strung up on the factory exterior for climbing vines.

Even their parking lots are water permeable. No more run-off. The paving material looks like asphalt but is a porous material that has sand and gravel below. The guide said that the water that runs through the pavement is filtered and very clean. It requires vacuuming twice a year to keep pores open and calcium chloride must be used instead of sodium chloride in winter.  The porous pavement is more expensive to install and maintain but lasts twice as long as conventional asphalt. Plus, no detention pond is needed...and it's good for the environment.

It seemed everything about The Rouge Factory was good for the environment or good for the employees. You could watch some of the assembly line in action. The workers were poetry in motion each doing their specific little jobs. While they are always under the time constraint of the moving line, it did not seem any were really hustling to keep up the pace. Some workers were on the cell phone, playing a hand held game, or even had newspapers there to catch a snippet of an article.

I asked a tour guide how much money these people made. She did not know specifically but said from what she read in the paper, it was around $20.00 per hour for new hires. Workers with more seniority were higher.

Another guide told us that Ford recently closed 2 other factories in other states, I believe, and now consolidated all of the work here at The Rouge. That sounded efficient. The Rouge's specialty was trucks**. Wonder where the other cars are made?

Monday's Investor's Business Daily answered part of that question: Movin' To Mexico!:  (My emphasis)

Ford's investment of $3 billion in two auto plants near Mexico City is the largest foreign company investment ever in Mexico. As oil prices soar and new climate-change rules are readied in Washington, Ford must shift from its reliance on trucks and SUVs to lighter, more energy-efficient vehicles.

This should be something that workers in Michigan and other Midwestern states with decades of automaking experience should excel at doing. Instead, Ford and other automakers are pushing more and more investment abroad — especially to Mexico.

The editorial cites reasons for an auto sales slump and the US losing jobs--mainly the UAW forcing higher wages and benefits--but increasing climate change rules and higher oil prices aren't helping the industry.

Like a coyote caught in a trap, U.S. automakers have been desperately gnawing off a leg to escape certain death. They're closing plants and slashing jobs in Michigan, Ohio and other U.S. union havens, in favor of non-union, foreign places. Like Mexico and China.

Meanwhile, foreign companies have no problem making cars here. They do it in the non-union South, where the UAW is weak.

So foreign companies can get around our high wages by being non-union, but even they and their products are subject to U.S. emission standards for factories and cars.

You would think that with our ailing auto industry our government would be doing all it could to help encourage instead of hinder. Yet Washington continues to hamper oil exploration and increase auto emission standards (i.e. new diesel emissions will be cleaner than intake air.) 

Add to automakers woes, both U.S. and foreign made here, the latest millstone around the neck: Cap-and-Trade, and I think we have the recipe for outsourcing more industry of all kinds.

Ford may have greened up its Dearborn plant and created an ideal work environment, but if more industry follows suit in exporting jobs to countries that don't care about workers or the environment, what good paying jobs will be left in America?

This was written before Tuesday's post Kohl, Feingold, and Doyle's reaction to GM closing Janesville plant

Related articles: Toyota workers in Kentucky plant made more than UAW members last year

More handwriting on the wall, GM closing Janesville assembly plant by 2010 

*The Rouge Factory was named for the Rouge River in Dearborn. The banks of the river were red clay, hence the name Rouge (French for red). 

**A guide told us this was the last year they would be making Mercury trucks. 


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