Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F - news) celebrated the opening of its latest manufacturing facility -- the Cleveland Aluminum Casting Plant -- today at a special ceremony for employees. The new plant, which is located on the company's 365-acre Brook Park site, will build aluminum engine blocks for Ford's new global inline four-cylinder engine family, the I4.

"It's no accident that the company decided to build its newest plant in Brook Park," said Roman Krygier, vice president - Ford Powertrain Operations. "The team here has proven they've got what it takes to compete with the best in the world and has led the way in the development of several breakthrough concepts, including the company's lean manufacturing initiative, the Ford Production System."

The Cleveland Aluminum Casting Plant is Ford's first new North American plant in five years. The 210,000-square-foot facility, which currently employs approximately 95 men and women, brings the Brook Park site's workforce up to 4,485 hourly and 550 salaried employees.

Building Blocks

The Cleveland Aluminum Casting Plant will build aluminum engine blocks for the new 2.3-liter I4 engine, which will be assembled at the Dearborn, Michigan Engine & Fuel Tank Plant. The new powerplant will make its North American debut in the 2001 Ranger.

"The I4 engine family will deliver class-leading performance, sound quality, reliability and durability while its lightweight construction and flex-fuel capability will improve fuel economy and reduce emissions," said Roman Krygier, vice president - Ford Powertrain Operations. "The I4 is a tremendously important engine for Ford."

To improve quality and reliability, a leading-edge technique known as Precision Sand Casting will be utilized in the plant's aluminum engine block production. Ford is an industry leader in this innovative application, which relies on a low-pressure injection method instead of the traditional gravity pour procedure. The new technology reduces the porosity of the cast aluminum piece, which translates to improved durability and customer satisfaction.

"Aluminum casting is a real growth industry, and we are proud that Ford chose to build these important new engine blocks here in Brook Park," said Bob Smillie, manager - Cleveland Engine #1 & #2 and Cleveland Aluminum Casting Plant.

Initial production at the plant is expected to be approximately 110,000 cast aluminum engine blocks.

"Perfecting the new precision sand casting process has been a challenge for us onsite, but it's a task we were eager to accept," said Willie Hubbard - president, UAW Local 1250. "The employees here are committed to making this the world's leading aluminum casting plant."

Ford and Brook Park

Ford's involvement with the city of Brook Park dates back roughly half a century. The company opened its first engine plant -- now called Engine Plant #1 -- on the site in 1951. A year later, the Cleveland Casting Plant opened, and Engine Plant #2 began operations in 1955.

"We call Cleveland Ford's 'second city,"' Krygier said. "Outside of Southeast Michigan, the Cleveland area has the highest concentration of Ford employees in North America."

Striving to be leaders in corporate citizenship, the company's community relations committee and site employees have contributed over $5 million since 1995 to support cultural and charitable institutions in the greater-Cleveland area.