LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Wednesday marks the beginning of a new automotive era in Louisville; a history for this city that dates back 100 years.
The first Ford escapes are rolling off the line at the Fern Valley Road assembly plant.
We've been hearing about the thousands of new jobs and the rebirth of the Louisville Assembly Plant for the last couple of years.
But today is the day that some 3,100 workers are on the job and they're making the 2013 ford escape.
“I got a call last Friday and then came in here Monday and here I go,” Darryl Whitaker, Ford employee, said.
Whitaker was one of the 18,000 people who stood in line last year to apply for the new Ford jobs.
On Wednesday night, he will be standing on the line in the Louisville Assembly Plant - helping build the first new Ford Escapes.
“It's all good, just ready to hurry up and get started and start building some cars,” Whitaker said.
This plant has been home to the Escape, Ranger and Explorer. But with the $600 million rebuilding of the Louisville Assembly Plant, the great Escape marks a new era in Louisville and how the vehicles are built and the sacrifices made by the union workforce to keep production in Kentucky and America.
“So you've got a huge, huge Ford UAW buy in. We all know what's at risk. It's the future of our company,” Todd Dunn, UAW Local 862 President, said. “This car is gonna be huge. You're gonna see sales in this car in my opinion that go through the roof.”
With two shifts punching the clock on Wednesday, about 3,100 workers are on the job at the Louisville Assembly Plant, with even more on the way by August.
“This is a big deal. It’s one of the biggest deals since we moved from Southewestern Parkway in 1955 and started the ‘55 Ford here on Fern Valley Road,” Louis Sexton, Former UAW Local 862 President, said.
Sexton should know. He was on the line in ‘55 and has seen the best and worst of the auto industry in Louisville.
“Every two or three or four years we have a downfall and then we come back , so I think we're on the move and I think you're going to see great things happen here,” Sexton said.
New workers are in training, with most of the new hires are on the graveyard shift.
Holly King, a Ford employee, says she will be able to handle the shift.
“I'll do anything for this job,” King said. “Most people would.”
Most of the new workers hired to build the Escape are earning roughly half of what the veteran workers are earning.