Ford has said it will close its Lorain Assembly Plant in late 2005, resulting in the loss of about 1,200 jobs.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said production of the plant’s Econoline van will shift to the Ohio Assembly Plant in nearby Avon Lake by January 2006 while production of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner at the Avon Lake plant will be transferred to a Kansas City, Missouri, plant in August 2005.

AP noted that Ford last year announced it would close the Lorain plant within four years but gave no timeline – the company gave details to workers on Wednesday.

Bruce Johnson, director of the Ohio Department of Development, reportedly said Ford is cutting short a seven-year commitment made in August 2002 to keep production of the Escape at the Avon Lake plant, and that will eliminate some state funding for the car maker.

Lloyd Mahaffey, director of the United Auto Workers region that covers Ohio, said Ford has broken a commitment to keep the Escape and Mariner in Avon Lake. “We’ve tried to do the right thing with Ford Motor Co., and I just don’t feel they’ve met us halfway,” he told the Associated Press.

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AP noted that Ford and UAW officials have said many of the Lorain workers will be eligible for retirement while some could find work at the Avon Lake plant. About 3,500 currently work at both plants.