The Long Beach Community and Ford Look Ahead
When the decision to build a factory In Long Beach was officially announced, the city's leading newspaper wrote:
"The coming of the Ford Factory is the finest thing which ever has happened in Long Beach. The City Council is to be commended for its prompt action in authorizing the City Manager to sign the contract. The establishment of this factory is the beginning of the actual realization of the dreams of the old-time builders of the city and the harbor. Other industries will follow in its path as sure as daylight follows night.”
Charles Drake, owner of the elegant Virginia Hotel in Long Beach, declared the above the day after the Ford Contract was signed. His was one of twenty testimonials that confirmed the optimism sweeping the city. The front page of the leading newspaper could not have been formatted with more excitement if war had broken out on the west coast. The leading theme was that of growth and dollar income for the city. Henry Ford was responsible for the fantastic growth of Detroit, and now he had picked Long Beach as the location for his greatest enterprise on the Pacific Coast. He had placed his stamp of approval on what Long Beach had to offer to industry and commerce, and since his judgement was recognized everywhere as preeminently sound, other industries were sure to build in Long Beach. Union Pacific alone had 600 acres at the harbor reserved for manufacturing sites. The Ford company was the first to utilize one of their locations. Mr. Capek, a company representative, said that Henry Ford personally had been involved in the negotiations over the past three years.
Capek stressed that time was of the essence, as Ford was losing money every day they stayed In the Los Angeles plant which was expensive to operate. Of the 700 men employed in the Los Angeles plant, 95 percent were married. Thus, they would bring families and buying power to Long Beach. The payroll there was $140,000 a month, and with the increase to 1200 employees at Long Beach the income to the employees, and thus to the city, would be $250,000 a month, $3 million a year. Close to 6,000 new people would be living in the city, buying homes, and patronizing the merchants. And the realtors were ready for them the day the contract was signed with full-page ads offering a lift to their development in Belmont Park in a private car with no obligation to buy. Headlines offered the hope that Henry Ford would also build an airplane factory in the City and use its municipal airport. In fact, why not enlarge the airport to make the option more attractive?
Little happened at the site until July 1927 when Union Pacific made arrangements for some soundings to determine the depth for the pile foundation that would be needed to support the "mammoth" building and heavy machinery. The results were sent back to the Ford Engineer Corps so they could make final plans for construction. This was expected to reach completion in ten months. The press expected Stone & Webster, California builders who had put up the Edison Plant to get the job, since they had built the other California Ford plants. Their people were already out inspecting the site. Experts expected the first work to be the construction of a retaining wall, or bulkhead, on the channel frontage immediately east of the bascule bridge. Simultaneously piling would be driven for the foundations and concrete footings poured. Then the ground area would be raised by fill from the dredging operations. The city would contract for that as soon as the final plans from Detroit were in the hands of Harbor Engineer R. G. McClone. The contracts between Ford, Long Beach City and Union Pacific were moving rapidly across the country by air mail. In September the factory was in the news again, chiefly to let the citizens know that the plant was expected to make Ford parts: batteries, glass, upholstery, buckles, and more. The project now was up to an architect, and Henry Ford would choose Albert Kahn.