March 4, 2015

Ford adding jobs, upping salaries building the F-150 in Kansas City

Ford will add 900 jobs in Kansas City and increase salaries for a number of its existing workers building the F-150 truck.

A 2015 Ford F-150 (Photo by: Sam VarnHagen)

A 2015 Ford F-150 (Photo by: Sam VarnHagen)

The company announced the overall addition of 1,550 jobs at its facilities in Kansas City and in Dearborn and Sterling Heights, Michigan, building the 2015 F-150. As part of Ford’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers, about 300 to 500 workers will see a pay increase from $19.28 to $28.50 an hour. Ford says most of those employees work in Kansas City, Chicago and Louisville.

The addition of jobs is on top of 5,000 hourly jobs Ford added across its U.S. manufacturing facilities in 2014. Once the new hires come on board during the first quarter of this year, Ford will employ more than 7,000 workers in Kansas City.

Ford says the moves are in response to strong demand for the F-150. The company says January was the F-Series truck’s strongest sales month since 2004.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) will travel to Magna Seating in Excelsior Springs Wednesday to talk about the additions at Ford and the strength of Missouri’s auto sector.

5 things to listen for in Missouri’s 2015 State of the State

Governor Jay Nixon (D) will deliver tonight the penultimate State of the State Address of his two terms. In it he’ll present his policy and spending priorities for the legislative session and the year, and today legislators will get his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.  You’ll be able to watch the State of the State, the Republican response, and post-address reactions at Missourinet.com, in conjunction with KMIZ TV, beginning at 6:45 tonight.

There are many things the governor is likely to talk about, such as the staples of education, job creation, and economic development.  Here, we offer some background on some of the other things one might listen for during the speech:

Governor Jay Nixon is greeted by legislators as he leaves the Missouri House Chamber after delivering the State of the State address at the State Capitol in Jefferson City. UPI / Bill Greenblatt

Governor Jay Nixon is greeted by legislators as he leaves the Missouri House Chamber after delivering a previous year’s State of the State address at the State Capitol in Jefferson City. UPI / Bill Greenblatt

1) How the Governor addresses Ferguson

The Governor must address the single biggest issue in Missouri of the past year. Nixon has received criticism from multiple fronts for his, and his administration’s, response to unrest after the shooting of Michael Brown, Junior, by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. A joint state legislative committee is investigating the state response on the night the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson was announced.

Nixon stands by how he and his administration have responded, but his critics–some within his own party–remain vocal.  One thing he might do is reiterate the call he and others have made for the U.S. Justice Department to release the results of its investigations into the Michael Brown shooting, which some see as necessary for the community of Ferguson to at last move on.

Nixon has often talked in past State of the State addresses about how Missouri and her citizens have responded to adversity, but the sensitivity of the issue and its relation to his office means great delicacy is required.  There is also a great deal of legislation stemming from Ferguson he could speak about, such as a bill to require the appointment of a special prosecutor in all officer-involved shootings or one that would abolish the grand jury system.

It’s also possible that protestors will seek to make their voices heard during the State of the State Address, much as they did the opening day of the legislative session two weeks ago.

2) Whether he will propose a transportation infrastructure funding plan

Nixon asked for, and received, a report from the state Transportation Department on whether making I-70 a toll road is feasible.  He hasn’t said whether he will call for that, or any other, transportation funding plan, leaving some believing that he’ll lay one out during the State of the State.  The Transportation Department, meanwhile, has outlined it’s “Tough Choices Ahead” plan, telling Missourians it will only perform regular maintenance on about a quarter of Missouri’s roads under the funding level projected for 2017.

Members and leaders of the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate maintain that a tolling proposal won’t clear the legislature.  Some of them also blame the governor for the sound defeat of a transportation tax proposal in 2014, saying it failed because he opted to put it on the August primary ballot. They say, then, that he needs to step up with a plan of his own.

3) Can Missouri keep the Rams in St. Louis?

Signs point to “no,” with many believing that Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke is well on the path toward taking the team to Los Angeles, assuming NFL owners don’t interfere.

A task force appointed by Nixon has laid out its plan for a new stadium in St. Louis, and Nixon has said, “there is a value to being an NFL City.” Still, state lawmakers have expressed resistance to involving taxpayer dollars in that effort.

Nixon might use the opportunity presented by the Address to push for some effort to keep the team in the Gateway city.

4) Tone toward Republicans

In his 2014 State of the State Address Nixon included some tough language regarding the positions of a Republican supermajority on Medicaid expansion; teacher pay, benefits and tenure; and tax reform. After November’s elections he faces even larger Republican supermajorities in both state legislative chambers.

The President of the Senate, Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), has said he’s encouraged by a tone of greater cooperation and communication from Nixon leading into this session. That could be, or not be, reflected in Nixon’s address tonight.

5) Medicaid expansion

Republicans in the state Senate, like those in the House, continue to oppose Medicaid expansion, with one of their newest members saying he will, “do everything,” he can to prevent it.

That doesn’t mean Governor Nixon has given up on the idea, however, recently telling reporters that it isn’t a lost cause and that a “cavalcade of states” with Republican governors and legislatures have moved forward on Medicaid, which he calls a significant change from last year.

He’s not alone in supporting expansion of Medicaid eligibility either, with the latest proposal being targeted at veterans, though the opponents seem to far outnumber the proponents.

 

Senator Blunt: Cuba could be but isn’t a good market for Missouri

Governor Jay Nixon (D) is pushing for the lifting of the more than 50-year-old trade embargo between the United States and Cuba. He says that would be good for the nation and Missouri in particular.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) disagrees. He says Cuba, where the government buys the food, has a history of not paying if it doesn’t pay up front.

“Every other country in the world had an open policy toward Cuba and it didn’t change Cuba, but my belief is a lot of particularly French and European Union farmers sold a lot of things to Cuba on credit that didn’t get paid for,” said Blunt.

“Then, if it’s like every other country in the world, the farmers go to the government and say, ‘We can’t collect this money from the Cubans. Would you pay us and then you collect the money?’ and that becomes just another sort of indirect government subsidy of a failed system.”

He says opening up trade policy with Cuba would also hurt the US’ position in future negotiations.

“The one thing we had to offer the next Cuban government was recognition in return for some behavioral changes,” said Blunt. “I think we failed to get that, gave away one of our most important early cards that sometime in the next decade in Cuba would have made a real difference.”

Blunt believes Cuba could be a good market for Missouri, but doesn’t think it is one yet.

Governor Nixon joins push for lifting embargo on trade with Cuba

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) has added his voice to a group of food and agriculture companies who want President Obama’s announcement he would normalize relations with Cuba to be followed by the lifting of the embargo of trade with the island nation.

Governor Jay Nixon speaks at the "public launch" of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.  (courtesy; the office of Governor Nixon)

Governor Jay Nixon speaks at the “public launch” of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. (courtesy; the office of Governor Nixon)

The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba held a “public launch” today in Washington D.C. Along with several members of the U.S. House and Senate that spoke in support of the effort was Governor Nixon.

“I respectfully … call on members of Congress to support our farmers, support the free market, and support this outstanding opportunity to strengthen our economy right here at home. Now is the time for Congress to follow through and remove these financial restrictions,” Nixon said. “Lift the embargo and do away with the self-imposed barriers that are holding us back.”

Nixon says as long as the embargo remains in place the U.S. is willfully losing out on a major market.

“Brazil alone has quadrupled its exports to Cuba. Quadrupled. We are prepared compete in that zone given a level playing field, that’s for sure,” Nixon said. “In a competitive world we can not ignore 11-million customers 90 miles from our country.”

Some among the Republican majorities in Congress, however, have expressed opposition to lifting that embargo. One among them is Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who says Cuba has a bad track record of not paying for goods that aren’t paid for up front.

Earlier story:  Missouri ag director on exploring trade with and a mission to Cuba

Missouri-made trucks win national awards

The Wentzville-made Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have both won national awards for 2015.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

The Chevrolet Colorado has been named Motor Trend’s ‘Truck of the Year,’ while the GMC Canyon won Autoweek’s ‘Best of the Best Truck.’

General Motors announced it would be making a historic $380 million investment in its Wentzville assembly plant back in November of 2011.  GM brought the production of the completely redesigned, mid-sized Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks to the Missouri facility.

To be eligible for the Motor Trend award, a truck must be all-new or significantly changed for the 2015 model year.  The mid-sized Colorado beat out six other trucks and won by a rare unanimous vote.  Each truck was rated separately by six criteria: design advancement, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value, and performance of intended function.

Editor in Chief of Motor Trend Edward Loh says the Colorado is the right sized pick-up truck for today.

“Everybody is going really, really big.  We really like the fact that GM has come out with a vehicle that is small, works in an urban environment, and will do great out where people love to have fun,” said Loh.

Loh told Missourinet that the competition wasn’t particularly very close this year and the Colorado walked away with it.

Autoweek’s annual Best of the Best awards are based on the evaluations of eight vehicle finalists selected for their performance, design, build quality, value and significance.  Magazine editors praised the all-new mid-sized GMC Canyon for its design, utility, features, and “perfect size.”

2015 GMC Canyon

2015 GMC Canyon

Editor in Chief of Autoweek Wes Raynal says he is really pleased with the winner and thinks his team did the right thing.

“The quality is good, the interior materials are very nice, well assembled.  It just kind of pommelled the rest of the trucks,” said Raynal.

Raynal said the Colorado finished 2nd behind the Canyon in their review.

“There basically the same truck in a lot of ways, but we liked the interior quality on the GMC and frankly we liked the exterior look a little bit more,” said Raynal.

Raynal told Missourinet that Wentzville assembly plant workers should be proud of the trucks they’ve built.

“I think it’s going to be a huge hit, both the Canyon and the Colorado.  I don’t think they’re going to have any trouble selling them and therefore they’ll have no trouble building them,” said Raynal.