President brings renewed attention to Missouri auto making

Missouri’s automotive manufacturing will be getting renewed attention this week when President Barack Obama visits a Ford Motor Co. facility near Kansas City to discuss the auto industry.

The president is scheduled to travel Friday to Ford’s stamping plant in Liberty, which is near its assembly in Claycomo. Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said Tuesday she is joining Obama and that the plant is a good place to discuss the turnaround.

Obama used some funds allocated to help the financial system to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. McCaskill said the industry now is thriving after a “near-death blow to automobile manufacturing in our country.” She said although Ford did not receive government assistance, the company would have been harmed indirectly if the other manufacturers had not survived.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said Tuesday he is pleased Obama is going to see the expansion of a plant that the Republican lawmaker said he had advocated for and was glad to see happen.

In 2011, Ford announced a $1.1 billion expansion at its Kansas City Assembly Plant that included construction of a new, integrated stamping plant. Earlier this year, Ford said it was adding a third shift and 900 jobs because of demand for its trucks. The company also said it was adding 1,100 workers to prepare for introduction of a new full-size van.

McCaskill said efforts by Gov. Jay Nixon and other Missouri officials have been important.

“Gov. Nixon and the state government has played a major role in making sure that they are now re-investing billions of dollars in that plant,” she said. “For generations to come, they’re going to be making great automobiles out of Claycomo.”

Missouri lawmakers approved a state incentives package for automotive manufacturing in 2010 that was aimed primarily at enticing Ford to continue making vehicles at the Kansas City-area facility. The automaker incentives allow manufacturers to keep withholding taxes for employees that otherwise would be paid to the state if they improve their factories for new or expanded product lines. Suppliers also can get a tax break.

Lawmakers approved the incentives during summer special session after a senator ended a more than 20-hour filibuster. Nixon held a bill signing ceremony the following day a union hall near the Ford plant.

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