While one of Avon Lake’s largest manufacturers, Ford Motor Company, is a major player in the city's tax base and economic health, the company wasn’t always keen on the having a plant here.
Mayor Greg Zilka found documents dating back to 1930 when the town of Avon Lake was just a village, that Ford, which currently operates the Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, felt the city wasn’t suitable for a plant.
Zilka noted that even in the 1930s, economic development was a priority for the city.
In a letter dated June 25, 1930, a letter from W. R. Hinz, the clerk of the “Village of Avon Lake” encouraged Ford to consider Avon Lake as a location for a plant.
Have noticed in various papers that your Company is figuring on locating a desirable site for an assembley (sic) plant or factory…
“Avon Lake, situated on the South shore of Lake Erie…enjoys a very low tax rate viz.10.6, cheap acreage and a modern water plant, built to take care of future expansion. These facts are partly responsible for the Cleveland Electric Ill. Co., investing $30,000,000 in a power plant in our Village.”
The CEI power plant is now operated by NRG/GenOn and is scheduled to close in 2015.
The Village received a response two weeks later. In a letter dated July 9, 1930, the clerk received a three-sentence letter from Ford’s president’s office rejecting the city as a plant location.
The letter in part read:
“…We would state that the erection of a plant in or near Avon Lake would not fit in with any of our present operations nor with any plans we have for the future and therefore we could not consider at this time locating a plant in your vicinity.”
The company had a change of heart in the 1970s. The 419-acre Ohio Assembly Plant on Miller Road opened in 1974 to produce the Ford Econoline (now E-Series) van. In December 2011, Ford announced it would invest $128 million in the plant to convert production from vans to large commercial trucks. At the time, the plant had more than 1,400 workers. It remains an integral part of the city’s tax base.