William Clay Ford Jr, the great grandson of Henry Ford was presented with the House of Waterford Crystal Cliffs of Moher vase on Thursday at Irish America magazine’s 26th Annual Business 100 Awards Luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in New York. He was also inducted into the magazine’s Irish America Hall of Fame.
He proudly remembered how Henry Ford had insisted that the company open up an automobile factory in his ancestral town of Cork in 1917 despite opposition from his board. As a result the Ford company in Ireland was known as Henry Ford and Sons, not the Ford Motor Company.
At its height it employed 8,000 Irish workers and closed in 1985. At the luncheon, the Ford scion was also presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage, a new initiative by the Irish government to acknowledge those who are not eligible for Irish citizenship but who are proud of their Irish roots, by Consul General Noel Kilkenny.
Ford, is the current Chairman of the Ford Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford the founder of the Ford Motor Company.
Henry Ford was the son of an Irish famine immigrant from Ballinascarty, Co. Cork His ancestors fled Ireland during the Great Hunger in 1947 and made their way to the United States through Canada.
This year William Ford made his inaugural trip to Ireland. He stated that the company would look at investing in Ireland again but the economic situation needed to improve.
Speaking of his Irish roots he stated ““It’s something our family has been very proud of, and something we’re acutely aware of,” he said.
He said Henry Ford had “changed the world” with the invention of the assembly line and the $5-a-day wage. he also fought for the common guy, “In the time of the robber barons, my great grandfather insisted on reinvesting and sharing profits with workers ... He was told he was a socialist, that he was not welcome on Wall Street.”
In 2006, Ford “mortgaged the family name” and took loans of over $22 billion but Ford alone of all the car companies didi not need a government bailout when the recession of 2008 hit.
“It’s our combative Irish heritage that got us through tough times,” Ford said.
The great-grandson of Henry Ford, he joined the Ford team in 1979 as a product analyst. He held a variety of domestic and international assignments in manufacturing, sales, marketing, product development and finance, before becoming vice president, Commercial Truck Vehicle Center in 1994.
He served as CEO from October 2001 to September 2006. A member of the board since 1988, he became chairman in 1999, continuing the family legacy and guiding the company into new territories of success and sustainability.
Ford was being honored by Irish America Magazine’s annual Business 100 event, which honors he best and the brightest Irish-Americans of the corporate world.
The honorees represent a wide range of the most influential and innovative companies, including twenty-seven of the 2011 Fortune 500. Three of the honorees are among Forbes magazine’s 2011 Most Powerful Women in the World.