Call it the Timex of assembly plants. Chrysler’s Belvidere, Ill, factory takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
On Thursday, the carmaker said it will add 1,800 jobs at Belvidere, in northwestern Illinois, not far from the Quad Cities area. Some of the workers will make the new Dodge Dart, a revival of the 1970s nameplate, which Chrysler unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. Others will produce the Jeep Liberty and Compass.
For Belvidere, and surrounding Boone County, the jobs are welcome. The area, where one in five people work in manufacturing, had a 14.4 percent unemployment rate in December, far higher than the national average.
Belvidere, which opened in 1965, has 2,700 workers, and has built a wide variety of cars for Chrysler, ranging from the small Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni to the big Imperial and New Yorker sedans and the Dodge Neon subcompact.
It lost 1,000 workers in 2008, not long before Chrysler got a bailout from the Obama administration and went through bankruptcy.
At one point, there was a single shift of workers at the factory, which seemed like it might be on the industry’s endangered list.
But Illinois gave the company a $68 million package of tax breaks and other incentives last year, and Chrysler is investing $700 million in the factory for improvements leading up to production of the Dart. New workers at the plant will be paid entry level wages of about $15 an hour, compared with the $28 an hour that veteran workers receive. They are expected to be hired by this summer.