John F. Floyd Commentary: Pondering Gadsden's game plan (and keeping an eye on Ford)

  • In Business
  • 2022-10-01 11:05:09Z
  • By The Gadsden Times
John F.
John F.  

This is a two-part commentary.

Bridgestone America, a Japanese company and the second-largest tire company in North America by volume, just announced a $550 million investment in its existing Tennessee plant. This will be an investment to increase production of bus and truck tires and is the single largest outlay of capital in Bridgestone's U. S. history.

Hankook Tire America Corporation just announced a $1.6 billion project to produce passenger and light truck tires in Clarksville, Tennessee. After Hankook's investment in the Clarksville plant, the company will have invested $2.2 billion in the U.S. since 2017.

Manufacturing plants are being built all over the South. Companies are moving to the region, even to Alabama, in bunches.

To me, based on my extensive background in the business world, the foremost problem for Gadsden city government, after the health and welfare of its residents and employees, is a plan for economic development of the city and of Etowah County.

What is Gadsden's game plan for capturing new business, and I am not talking about restaurants.

I have heard that the new administration should have a honeymoon period. I would think the new mayor and City Council members want to hit the ground running. They should demand inclusion in what the master plan encompasses for economic development in Gadsden and Etowah County.

The automobile industry seems to have decided the future of the automotive market is fully imbedded in the total electric stratosphere, for good or bad. Instead of planning for an orderly transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to all-electric go-karts, the U.S. government has mandated technology changes that may not be available to automotive companies.

Progressive politicians have forced those companies into a negative fossil fuel future based on technologies that don't exist.

Ford Motor Company is one of the leaders in the electric vehicle revolution. Ford's plan is a production schedule in excess of 2 million vehicles by 2026. I could have picked any car company to discuss, but because of the presence of Ronnie Watkins Ford in Gadsden, a strong and outstanding local dealership, I've selected Ford.

Ford just announced an investment of $700 million in their Louisville Truck Plant. This investment will result in 500 new jobs to enhance a workforce that already numbers 8,700.

The money will be used to equip the facility that manufactures the Super Duty pickup trucks, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, with new machinery to help develop a redesigned version of its largest F series pickups.

Ford finds itself in an automotive market in turmoil. From supplier problems to high inflation and the remnants of COVID-19, the company's stock price has fallen precipitously. Ford was trading six months ago on the Dow Jones at somewhere around $19; the price at closing on Sept. 29th was $11.47. The stock price is down 41% in 2022.

Computer chip problems have been the main supply problem for Ford manufacturing, but any interruption of parts delivery can cause manufacturing and order delivery problems.

One example is the Ford Blue Oval, the identification that is attached to all Ford products. In the Sept. 24 edition of the Wall Street Journal, staff writer Nora Eckert reported, "The car company has run into supply constraints with the brand-name badges and the nameplates that specify the model, according to people familiar with the matter. Both parts are affixed to the vehicle's exterior and are important identifiers for the automaker's products."

The identifier problem has delayed delivery of some customer orders. For an automotive manufacturer, any supply problem is a disaster.

Ford is a strong company financially. It is well positioned to meet the challenges of a disruptive automotive environment. The product line is sound and Ford has strong management. When problems develop, management takes action.

The problem with the supply chain is being addressed through management changes to strengthen operations. In addition, Ford is addressing overhead costs by furloughing 3000 employees at its Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters. That is called overhead reduction and goes directly to the bottom line.

Because of manufacturing mandates from politicians who are technology deficient, future automobile architecture is going to be interesting.

John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp. He can be reached at The opinions reflected are his own. 

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: John Floyd ponders Gadsden's game plan, looks at Ford's future


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