Pounds: SolidarityWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Nov. 25, about 100 Jeep workers and supporters gathered outside One Government Center to express support for a proposed land purchase near the Jeep plant that city officials and union leaders hoped would woo Chrysler into keeping Wrangler production in Toledo.
Wearing red shirts reading “Solidarity on Stickney,” they chanted and carried signs reading “Keep Jeep,” “This is Home” and “Sergio Promised.”
Like the former Southwyck Mall site, the former Textileather site has potential but no committed end-user. Unlike the Southwyck purchase, however, which divided Toledo City Council and passed by a narrow 7-5 vote, the Textileather site elicited only one response: support. On Dec. 2, Council moved to purchase the property with a unanimous vote.
Councilman Tom Waniewski, who was among those critical of the Southwyck purchase, calling it too expensive a gamble once The Andersons dropped out of consideration, said he supported the Textileather purchase.
“With Jeep, we have a viable tenant already there that has been looking for more room,” Waniewski told Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Sarah Ottney. “We have to be at the table to play with Chrysler. By not passing this land deal, we would have in essence taken our cards and said we’re done for the night. But with this land purchase at least we’re still at the table, we’re still playing with them … and hopefully convince them this is still the best place to continue to build Wrangler.”
Although the city is focused on Chrysler, City Development Director Matt Sapara told Ottney officials have also talked to other potential end-users with the goal being to land the biggest economic driver possible for the city.
That would seem to be Chrysler. The company employs more than 6,000 people locally, not to mention those employed by local parts suppliers and other related businesses.
“It matters where you make it and we make it better here than anywhere on this planet,” Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins told Council after the vote.
That’s not just empty praise. Toledo’s assembly complex has submitted to productivity test after productivity test and continuously comes up on top, UAW Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower told Council last week. Toledo builds 240,000 Wranglers per year, working seven days a week, 20-24 hours a day, including holidays — the best production output in the world — and still can’t keep up with demand, he said. Between Cherokee and Wrangler, Toledo produced 50,000 vehicles in October, more than any other North American location has in years, he said.
Despite all that, we still might lose Wrangler. But of course we never go down without a fight. Tuesday’s vote shows Chrysler this city is standing in solidarity with Jeep workers and Toledo’s long history with the brand.
Although Chrysler has indicated it would build another vehicle in Toledo if it pulls Wrangler, the loss would be devastating, Baumhower told Council, pointing to Chrysler’s ambitious five-year plan of expanding Wrangler’s market globally.
“Do we want to play in that sandbox that we built? That’s gonna get a whole lot bigger?” Baumhower asked Council on Nov. 25. “Hell yes, we do. That’s the one we want to build.”
Yes, we do. Go big or go home. This is home. We’re going all in.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press.