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Missouri weighs breaks to save Ford plant

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Missouri weighs breaks to save Ford plant



JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is shopping for a Ford.

The governor ordered lawmakers back for a special session starting Thursday to consider millions in tax incentives and pension plan changes to entice the automaker to keep its Kansas City-area plant producing.

The union at the Claycomo plant, which employs 3,700 people, fears that without the tax breaks, Ford won't give the factory another vehicle to build if it stops making Ford Escapes next year.

Claycomo also makes the Escape's twin, the Mercury Mariner, but Ford is eliminating the Mercury brand this year. It builds the Ford F-150 pickup as well, but Escape-Mariner production employs the bulk of the workers.

UAW Local 249 said on its Web site that Ford is moving Escape production to a plant in Kentucky, which is being set up to make vehicles off Ford's global compact car underpinnings. Ford has not said which products will go to the Louisville Assembly Plant, nor has it officially said that Escape production will end next year at Claycomo.

A person briefed on Ford's plans said no final decisions have been made on where to produce a new version of the Escape. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been made public.

The union local president did not immediately respond to a message Friday.

Ford's decision likely depends on the outcome of the proposed tax breaks, as well as local and national contract negotiations with the UAW.

The union's national contract with Ford and the other Detroit automakers expires next year, and Ford is likely to be the first to bargain with the union and set the pattern for Chrysler and General Motors.

Missouri's proposed tax breaks would allow manufacturers to keep half their state employee withholding taxes if they invest in improvements for new product lines.

Suppliers would get added incentives. The program would be capped at $15 million annually, though earlier drafts limited any company to $10 million.



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