ST. LOUIS — Gov. Matt Blunt is the second governor in as many days to visit Ford Motor Co. headquarters and ask executives to spare a plant in his home state.
Blunt spent the afternoon in Michigan laying out reasons to keep the company’s plant open in Hazelwood, a small town in the St. Louis area. The day before, he was preceded by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who asked that the company not close a plant in St. Paul.
Community leaders from around the country have been traveling to Ford headquarters since the company announced it will unveil a restructuring plan Jan. 23, said Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari.
Gattari wouldn’t say if the plan will entail job cuts.
Speculation was fueled last month when the Wall Street Journal, citing two unidentified people familiar with the automaker’s plans, said that Ford is likely to close five North American plants, including one in Hazelwood. The closings would eliminate 7,500 jobs, or 6 percent of Ford’s North American work force.
The stakes are high in Hazelwood, a town that depends on a heavy manufacturing base for many high-paying jobs. About 1,400 workers make Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineer and Lincoln Aviator sport utility vehicles at the plant.
The average autoworker in Hazelwood earns nearly $65,000 with overtime. The average Missourian earns about half that.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and Hazelwood Mayor T.R. Carr were slated to travel with Blunt to Detroit.
Mac Scott, a spokesman for Dooley, said Missouri officials were considering tax breaks or other incentives to keep the plant open.
“We’re not just going to sit back,” Scott said. “We want to make sure that Ford understands there are alternatives.”
Ford said Wednesday that its sales dropped 4 percent in 2005 as consumer demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles fell in the face of high gas prices. Sales of Ford’s Explorer and Expedition SUVs fell by more than 28 percent.