Belvidere Chrysler Plant Reopening Boosts Local Economy

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Hundreds of employees are back to work at the Belvidere Chrysler Plant, after months of waiting for it to be re-tooled for production of the Jeep Cherokee.

It’s good news for the unemployment rate, not only within the company, but across the Stateline.

One local employment center, Workforce Connection, was ready when Chrysler started back up. It held an auto industry job fair Wednesday in Belvidere.

“We had a hefty jump in the unemployment rate,” said John Strandin, Public Relations of Workforce Connection.

“It slowed us done quite a bit,” said R.L. Leek Safety Director Paul Johnson

Employment in the Stateline took a big, but temporary hit when the Chrysler Assembly Plant in Belvidere shut down earlier this year.

Fox Business News reports the Belvidere plant’s production output is down 93% year to date, due to the plant needing to be re-tooled for production of the Jeep Cherokee. But, local employment centers knew they needed to prepare once Chrysler and its suppliers were ready to get back to work.

“We knew a few months ago that all these companies once they started up again that we’re going to need to hire people,” said Strandin.

Now, Chrysler is making the Jeep Cherokee out of it’s Belvidere plant every day, meaning steady work for other companies they contract. One of those is a trucking company based in Rockford, RL Leek. A recruiter for the company says now that Chrysler is back up, he can offer more jobs.

“Those cars are starting to get faster and faster through the line,” said Johnson. “[That] means we’re going to keep running a lot faster as they keep running a lot faster.”

“I got to have more drivers. They got to have more employees to cover those lines in the assembly areas.”

But, the economic impact goes even farther than just the walls of the Belvidere plant and its suppliers.

“Huge positive impact in the economy when people are working,” said Strandin. “It helps businesses that aren’t related to Chrysler.”

Pamela Lopez-Fettes works with Growth Dimensions, the Economic Development Organization for Belvidere and Boone County. She says what Chrysler has and will continue to bring to this area is significant.

“Chrysler and its suppliers have really impacted our community,” said Lopez-Fettes. “They’ve invested thousands of dollars in infrastructure in our community as well as it’s created over 800 jobs.”

Six vendors took part in Wednesday’s job fair. Workforce Connection says about 400 people showed up looking for a job. Employers were hoping to fill 300 positions.

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