Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant Impact Local and West Coast
Going back to the day in 1926 when Long Beach citizens found out that the great Ford factory was to be located in their town, we saw the city fathers adding up the figures on income to the community. The section on Time and Technological change documents and confirms their predictions. However, this dealt largely with payroll and spending of the payroll. Henry Ford, in spite of his huge vertical operation at the Rouge, believed in decentralization, in cottage industry and in spreading out the line of supply. At the beginning, at Long Beach, local purchasing was involved almost entirely in maintenance, repair and operating materials. The 1930s and post-World War II operations under Henry Ford I brought little change. Still, some progress had been made in the decentralization policy as Ford was buying $15,000,000 worth of West Coast manufactures annually to supply its Long Beach and Richmond plants. This involved 90 suppliers. Parts included bumpers, chassis springs, cushion springs, batteries, paint, upholstery, wheels, gasoline tanks, tires, and other rubber parts. With the advent of Henry Ford II as president of the company came a new policy, and by 1949 6,000 small firms on the West Coast were helping feed the assembly lines and conveyor network with $50,000,000 worth of materials.
The campaign to use West Coast suppliers began in February 1947 when none other than Louis Disser, a Ford purchasing executive was sent out to the Long Beach plant over his private wish to resign from the company at that time. Setting up his headquarters in the Long Beach office building he sent for Albert J. Browning, Ford vice-president and director of purchases. They arranged a buyers' program at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles on February 17th to 20th, 1947. Setting out blueprints and samples of 2,600 items which the company wanted to buy, they then sent out ten thousand invitations to Coast manufacturers.
Even before the buyers program, Browning announced that three new California firms had been given contracts for a total of $1,900,000 worth of parts: Cannon Electric, Bendix Aviation, and the R.H. Osbrink Manufacturing Company. Henry Ford II, Mayor Fletcher Bowron, and Lieut-Governor Goodwin Knight spoke at the buyers program where Ford had planned on 650 for lunch. Instead, 1,300 attended. After that exhibit, the display of the 2,600 parts was moved to the Carpenter Building (Shed "A") at the Long Beach plant. By September, 1948 Ford had increased its West Coast buying by $20,000,000 and was propagandizing it in the company newspaper. Pictures showed a worker in a suppliers factory finishing a product such as a battery and a second picture where a Long Beach worker dropped the battery into place at final assembly. In 1949 the company reached its $50,000,000 Coast purchasing goal. It was buying everything from paper clips to repair ovens, in fact everything not coming out of Dearborn, Michigan. At the same time it was paying over $5,000,000 in local taxes. Ford Long Beach was a major contributor to the community.
When the plant closed much was printed in the local papers in regard to income loss. Yet, as one columnist wrote, of the 1,087 people estimated to be employed at the local plant, only 468 lived in the city. He observed that the city would not really lose the purchasing power of those 468 people. Ford had brought those people to the community permanently, for the most part, and they would commute to Pico-Rivera. Further, Ford employees were a vital part of the community having taken part In Red Cross, Community Chest, Boy Scouts, and other local organizations. Their athletic program as well had placed them in the community at large. Their social contribution is not measurable in figures, but was also major.