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"Green is Gold" Expo A Great Success

The Green is Gold Expo sponsored by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond played to a full house at Richmondís increasingly high profile Ford Assembly Plant.

 

The Ford Plant was also featured yesterday on KGO. For a video, see http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=6815942 .

 

 By Wayne Freedman

As certain as today's automotive gloom and doom is, there is always the future. In Richmond, an old Ford assembly plant that shut down decades ago, is proving that sometimes sad endings have bright new beginnings.

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In the old industrial yards of Point Richmond, there may never be a greater contrast between present and past. You hear the rattling of the rusty relics as the wind blows and yet can compare that to the shiny new windows of buildings reborn.

"I think it is the innate brilliance of the American consumer telling us the automobile age is over," said Eddie Orton.

Orton isn't exactly following Henry Ford's footsteps, but at least he had a vision for what used to be Ford's old, giant assembly plant. Back in the 1930's, they made Model A's, in World War II they made jeeps and tanks, and after 1955 there was nothing at all. The city of Richmond condemned this place in 1989 and finally Orton gambled on the remnants for $6 million.

"There wasn't a piece of pipe, there wasn't a wall left that we could use," said Orton.

However, looking at the old plant today it is home to 500 employees at six businesses. One of them turns ground up bottle bits into counters and floors, another designs solar panels, and high above the theory in practice. There are 72 solar arrays along a fifth of a mile of roofline, which is enough to cut the power consumption of the building in half.

"We generate enough power for 1,000 homes," says Orton.

Orton's future for this recycled building even includes a restaurant which will seat 88 people.

"What if you need to expand?" asks ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"Then we have a convenient room next door that seats 2,000," says Orton.

There's a building roughly as big as a football field, which is 50,000 square feet. It used to house all the raw materials used in the plant. Giant cranes, above, now serve as seismic support. And if you look out back, the old train tracks remain in place. As we walked, Orton pointed out the irony of a ship across the way unloading imported cars.

"The future is what is happening in our old Ford plant. That is the past," says Orton.

A ray of hope shines, even in dark times.

 (Copyright ©2009 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)