Chrysler to add jobs at Belvidere assembly plant to make Dodge Dart
BELVIDERE — Chrysler Group LLC plans to boost the payroll at its Belvidere assembly plant above 3,000 for the first time since it eliminated a third shift there in early 2008.
Chrysler is taking applications for full-time hourly production employees with starting wages of $15.78 an hour through a company website.
Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said about 2,700 now work at the plant, and the company plans to add 400 to 500 workers for production of the Dart, which is supposed to go on sale in the second quarter of the year.
Tinson said the workers are to fill out the plant’s two shifts. Chrysler has not announced whether it will add a third shift at Belvidere.
As in 2006, when Chrysler added Belvidere’s third shift, the jobs are all part time or temporary. That means they will last only as long as sales of the cars and SUVs rolling out of Belvidere stay strong.
Since opening in 1965, the Belvidere plant has traditionally been a two-shift operation. In 2001, though, the company eliminated the Plymouth brand, which significantly cut sales of the Neon, which was built in Belvidere from 1993 to 2005. So Chrysler reduced the plant to one shift, about 1,600 workers, from 2001 through 2005.
In 2006, Chrysler launched the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass, calling back workers to fill a second shift and then hired an additional 1,000 “temporary” workers for the first third shift in plant history.
In 2007, with the Jeep Patriot also added to the line, those workers came within a few vehicles of breaking the plant’s production record set in 1987. But the economy slipped into a recession at the end of 2007 and auto sales slowed considerably in 2008. Chrysler eliminated the third shift — and those 1,000 workers — in March.
This round of hiring comes at a time when the Rock River Valley’s manufacturing sector is beginning to hum. Local manufacturing employment fell nearly 28 percent from December 2007, when 34,500 had blue-collar jobs at the start of the Great Recession. By January 2010, the manufacturing workforce bottomed out at 25,000 in Boone and Winnebago counties.
Since then, the number of local manufacturing jobs has climbed back to 28,500 as of November, with 1,600 of those added in October and November. The December numbers will be released Thursday.