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Editorial: Saving jobs at Freightliner

With the county’s jobless rate rising above 13 percent in the most recent figures, county officials have to be concerned about preserving existing jobs, as well as adding new ones. Both of those goals could be accomplished if Freightliner chooses to shift production of military trucks to the Cleveland plant in a deal that could bring some welcome stability to the facility, as well as providing $16 million in new investment.
Nothing’s official yet, of course. But with the incentives package approved Monday evening, the county moved a step closer to making the production shift from Portland, Ore., to Rowan County a reality. While this isn’t going to immediately restore the thousands of jobs shed at the plant over the past few years, it could mark a significant turning point and result in more workforce stability. Along with providing more security for the 695 employees currently at the plant, the production shift could eventually lead to perhaps 400 or so additional jobs, company officials say. Further benefit would come from the additional business it could mean for local companies that supply Freightliner.
With Freightliner shifting a significant portion of its civilian truck production to Mexico, the possibility of retooling to produce vehicles for the military holds some decided benefits, for workers as well as Rowan County. Not only do these jobs pay well (an estimated $24 an hour in base pay); so long as the military contracts keep rolling in, they’re likely to stay here. While nothing’s guaranteed, this looks like a good investment for the county, and good news for the workers still on the assembly line.

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