CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ford Motor Company has finished a $1 billion renovation at its two plants on Chicago's far South Side.
The company's oldest continuously producing plant was transformed into a high-tech facility entrusted with building the new Ford Explorer.
"When you build 350,000 vehicles a year through a facility year after year and you're running seven days a week you tend to run the equipment out, and you don't have a lot of time for the preventive maintenance, so this is probably the best running department I have in the plant right now because of the new facility," said Jimmy DeMartino, the plant's manager.
Ford added an all new paint shop, new tooling to build the new SUV line, and a state of the art body shop which has more than 650 robots; 200 of those were a part of the latest investment. The plant upgrades took one month, a company record for an all new vehicle build..
"What surprised me is that the new robots, you think would take jobs away, but it actually added jobs in Chicago," said Alan Millender, who is the union chairman for local 551. "My dad worked 51.4 years here he would be amazed what this plant has come from."
The company invested $40 million to make the Chicago Assembly and Stamping Plants better places to work, with new LED lighting, cafeteria updates, new break areas and parking lot security upgrades. As part of the revamp, 500 additional jobs were created, most of which were filled by local residents.
Ford said this investment demonstrates their long term commitment to Chicago.
"We're proud of our commitment to the South Side of Chicago. 95 years of being here. This investment says a lot about the community and our support we get here, our great workforce. The Explorer Aviator is sold out for this year and we think next year as well. So, great signs for this community, including the stamping plant, and a big commitment by Ford," said Joe Hinrichs, the president of Ford Motor Company.
The automotive company plans to produce more than 350,000 vehicles this year thanks to the new technology. The new 2020 Ford Explorer will be built in Chicago, as well as the Lincoln Aviator and Police Interceptor Utility.