Employees crowded around, took photos and cheered as the last Ford Ranger pickup truck rolled off the assembly line Friday in St. Paul, Minn.
At least one worker was bewildered by the reaction.
“I could not understand why there were cheering for the last vehicle,” Mike Montie, who worked at the Twin Cities Assembly Plant for 28 years, told the Associated Press. “You cheer for the first one, not the last one. I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I didn’t want it to end, you know?”
He was one of 800 employees who lost their jobs when the Twin Cities Assembly Plant closed Friday. The plant, located along the banks of the Mississippi River, has produced more than 6 million cars during an 86-year history. But sales of the Ranger have slackened since the 1990s, and Ford decided to concentrate on larger, more profitable pickups.
A multimillion dollar cleanup of the 122-acre site will begin early next year.
Local officials are hopeful the site can be repurposed. According to the St. Paul Star Tribune, locals are considering a lot of possibilities, including a green manufacturing complex, a densely populated transit village, a park, an office campus and a middle-class neighborhood.
A study conducted by the Center for Automotive Research released last week showed that nearly 49 percent of the 263 auto plants that have closed over the past three decades have found a new purpose. The study from the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based research center also noted the rate of repurposing has accelerated in the past three years.
“It’s a premier piece of land,” Cecile Bedor, the city’s planning director, tells the newspaper. “There’s nothing like it anywhere in the region. It is an incredible opportunity for the city, but it does come on the heels of devastating news for many families.”