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Wixom Plant closing

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  • Alexander
    • Oct 30 2002
    • 3321

    Wixom Plant closing

    This is truly sad. Ford announced that the Wixom plant is closing. This plant was opened in 1958. All of Ford's premium cars were built here - Lincolns, Ford GT, 2002-2005 Thunderbird and of course the Squarebirds. It will be hard getting over this.

    For pictures of the Wixom plant that I took in 2001 see:

    Loss of Wixom plant is 'a blow to all of us'

    January 24, 2006

    Denise Miracle, 39, of Northville is a bartender at the Wixom Bar, around the corner from the Ford Wixom Assembly Plant. "This plant made Wixom. It's the town's identity," said Miracle, wiping away tears Monday. (MANDI WRIGHT/Detroit Free Press)

    Grief, fear and anger swept across the city of Wixom.

    From the factory floor to bars, restaurants and living rooms, people in the city of 14,000 hung their heads Monday after Ford Motor Co. announced it would close its Wixom Assembly Plant next year and eliminate the jobs of more than 1,500 workers.

    The sprawling plant isn't just Wixom's biggest employer -- it's the city's backbone and character, said Denise Miracle, a bartender at the gritty Wixom Bar.

    "This plant made Wixom. It's the town's identity," said Miracle, wiping tears from her eyes. "It's terrible to see. It's a sad day."

    Guy Dufresne remembers as a boy watching Wixom fill with hope after the plant opened in 1957. To this day, he drives a Ford because of it.

    "That plant has been here forever," the 53-year-old Wixom resident said. "Wixom wouldn't be here without it."

    Sentiments like these will surface in other communities, small and large, in the months ahead as Ford continues to unveil what plants will close under its restructuring plan. Other plants identified Monday for closure are in Windsor, St. Louis, Mo., Atlanta and Batavia, Ohio.

    In Wixom, city officials expressed some relief that new industries and a population boom have diversified the town's economy in recent years. A decade ago, about half of the city's tax base was tied to the Ford plant. That figure has fallen to 12%, said Wixom City Manager Mike Dornan.

    New industries, including biomedical research, are helping the city diversify and draw new revenue.

    The change prompted city leaders to go ahead with a plan for a $200-million downtown with hip retailers, condos, fountains and walkways.

    Wixom's population has grown from 8,550 in 1990 to an estimated 14,163 today. By 2030, it could reach 24,484, according to a projection by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

    Dornan and other city leaders plan to meet with Ford to determine what it plans to do with the nearly half-mile-long plant. Dornan said he is confident the property will attract interest because of its proximity to I-96 and location in growing western Oakland County.

    "Wixom and Ford Motor Co. should be able to put together a plan that will satisfy our mutual goals," Dornan said.

    For now, he said, "Today is really a day for families and friends to allow some settling time" to absorb the news. "This is more than disconcerting for the families and workers, but we're going to move on," he said of the town.

    Across Wixom Road from the Ford plant, the mood was somber at Leon's Food & Spirits. Some workers cried over lunch; others sat quietly in booths.

    Co-owner Debi Leon wondered what would become of her restaurant, where plant workers account for half the breakfast crowd and a quarter of the lunch crowd. Mostly she worried about the regulars, the workers who have become her friends.

    "It's a blow to all of us," she said. "It's very unfortunate."

    For the past 25 years, the dark and smoky Wixom Bar -- known affectionately by patrons as the Cinderblock Palace -- has been a gathering place for workers to unwind after their shifts. Bar owner Leonard Gilpatrick said about 40% of his customers are Ford workers. Between 15 and 20 come in almost daily, he said.

    "There are people who I see every day, every day, every day," he said. "I get hugs every day."

    Huddled with coworkers Monday morning at the bar, Debra Cook swallowed the news that the plant she worked at for nearly 29 years would close. The paint repairwoman worries about her coworkers and their families. And she worries about Wixom and its residents.

    "I hate to see what's going to happen to this town," the 46-year-old Novi resident said. "It will have a ripple effect. It's going to hit everyone. It's a shame."

    At the Walled Lake Consolidated School District, where most of Wixom's children go to school, counselors, social workers and teachers will look out for those struggling to deal with the plant's closing "as they would for any family emergency," spokeswoman Judy Evola said.

    She said it was impossible to know yet what impact the plant's closing will have on the district financially. "It would only be speculation," she said.

    Skip Boilore, 71, owner of Wixom Dry Cleaners, had few good words for Ford.

    "The Ford company has gone down the tubes as far as I'm concerned," he said. "It's Ford's fault that the plant is closing. It has nothing to do with Wixom or the workers."

    Contact STEVE NEAVLING at 586-306-5572 or Contact GINA DAMRON at 248-351-3293 or Staff writers Lori Higgins and Jason Roberson contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

    1959 Hardtop
    1960 Golde Top
    1959 Hard Top
    1960 Golde Top