Chrysler to add 1,800 jobs, expand plant in Illinois

Alexandria Johnson

An Illinois city located less than a two-hour drive away from Evanston could receive a significant economic boost when Chrysler adds more than 1,000 jobs to its plant this year.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced Friday that Chrysler will invest $700 million in the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Ill., which is expected to add 1,800 jobs. The changes come as the company prepares to produce its new model, the 2013 Dodge Dart, in the second quarter of 2012.

“The auto industry is essential to growing our economy,” Quinn said in a news release Friday. “Illinois automakers and their suppliers are thriving today because we have helped meet their needs. By providing companies like Chrysler with the tools they need, we’re helping them not only succeed but thrive.”

Mark Williams, executive director for Growth Dimensions of Belvidere and Boone County, Inc., said the plant’s job growth will benefit the Belvidere economy if the city’s residents fill the new positions.

“The impact is tremendous for the economy,” Williams said. “It’s something above what we were hoping to do.”

Williams said a few years ago Belvidere was working to retain the city’s plant.

“It helped stabilize our economy, and this obviously will push us toward recovery hopefully,” Williams said.

Prior to the recent housing collapse, housing was expanding in the area, and many Belvidere residents worked in construction, he said.

“We anticipate things to pick up again with construction and with Chrysler – obviously 1,800 jobs is big,” Williams said.

Williams said he thinks the productivity of the plant, highly ranked internationally, is one of the reasons Chrysler decided to invest in this location.

“The reason was because it’s a great workforce, it’s a great plant,” said Jodi Tinson of Chrysler’s Manufacturing and Labor Communication. “It’s going to produce a great vehicle.”

Chrysler will invest in building a new body shop and will add a third work shift to the plant.

“It’s going to make Belvidere one of the most technologically advanced, state-of-the-art plants we have in our manufacturing portfolio, and obviously it’s bringing new jobs to the area,” Tinson said.

Weinberg freshman Hope Hellman is from Belvidere and said the area faces a struggling economy. She said “all things considered,” the job additions and expanded infrastructure mark a positive investment.

“It’s a good thing that the plant is getting some attention and producing more jobs,” Hellman said. “A lot of people have jobs based off that plant.”

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