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Thousands of Ford workers to take home $9,000 bonsues

An employee moves parts at Ford Motor Company's Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights in 2012. The automaker is paying $9,000 profit-sharing bonuses to its 5,500 local employees,

Ford's profit-sharing program will mean a $49.5 million injection of cash into the Calumet Region economy this spring.

Ford plans to pay out profit-sharing bonuses that average $9,000 on March 9 to about 4,200 hourly workers at its Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch and about 1,300 at its Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights, spokeswoman Kelli Felker said. The plants make the Ford Explorer, Taurus, Police Interceptor Sedan, and Police Interceptor Utility, and will soon also make an electric police vehicle as well.

Full-time hourly employees qualify for the benefit, which Indiana University Northwest Assistant Professor of Economics Micah Pollak said will likely result in more consumer spending and greater consumer confidence.

Ford said the distribution was its second-best profit sharing ever with more than 56,000 employees nationwide. Automakers adopted the practice as a bargain with auto workers during the Great Recession because it would insulate the companies from higher labor costs during the downturn but lift compensation when business rebounded.

The Dearborn-based automaker reported a 2016 profit of $4.6 billion, which was down $2.8 billion from the previous year largely because of a pension adjustment. The Dearborn-based automaker earned $1.15 per share in 2016, down from $1.84 in 2015.

Earnings finally declined after seven straight years of booming growth in the auto sector.

“We achieved a solid 2016 net income of $4.6 billion, as well as an adjusted pre-tax company profit of $10.4 billion, which was our second best ever – building on the all-time record we had set the year before. This underscores the substantial progress we are making in expanding our business to be an auto and a mobility company," President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields said. "This year, we’re focused on building on our strengths, transforming underperforming parts of our business and investing in the emerging opportunities that will provide even more profitable growth in the future.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.