A global carmaker released a statement on February 2, which indicated that it plans to expand the operations of a Belvidere, Illinois plant, adding 1,800 manufacturing jobs. With the new positions that will be created, the carmaker will have created almost 4,000 new jobs since June 2009. The new workers will be needed to manufacture an all-new vehicle.
The announcement was met with an enthusiastic response by sources, who told The Associated Press that the plant expansion will both bolster job creation and lift the spirits people in the area, which has the highest unemployment rate in the Midwestern state.
The global carmaker's chief executive officer, Sergio Marchionne referenced the area's economic troubles when giving a speech at the plant, according to the media outlet. Before emerging from bankruptcy proceedings in 2008, the company had to dismiss close to 1,000 employees in Belvidere. The city is a part of Boone County, which had a jobless rate of 14 percent in December.
"It was not by chance that we chose Belvidere to make this investment and build the new [vehicle]," Marchionne told employees at the speech, according to the statement. "Our decision is evidence of the faith we have in your level of commitment and your passion to deliver great products for our customers. You have been essential in our ability to author a remarkable story of recovery."
The chief executive added that he wanted to "thank Governor Quinn, Mayor Brereton and the UAW for working with us to bring jobs, investment and a new product to this area."
He added that "with their help and this dedicated workforce, we are creating a work environment here in Belvidere that is dedicated to quality, and with the flexibility to compete with the best plants anywhere in the world."
Marchionne stated that the company's previous plans to invest $600 million into a 638,000-square-foot facility had been upgraded to a $700 million capital injection. The shop will involve the use of new equipment specifically designed to manufacture the global carmaker's new vehicle.
The new positions will coincide with the facility running three shifts, which it has not done since March 2008, when the plant had around 3,600 employees. The 3-2-120 schedule will involve three separate groups of workers pulling four 10-hour shifts, for a total of 120 productive hours. This compares to a total of 80 hours that would result from 2 shifts of 40 hours each. The plan will reduce the number of working days for full-time employees by 49 each year, but the facility will be open an additional 49 days a year.
The new jobs - some of which could be filled through staffing agencies - coincide with Illinois' unemployment rate declining to 9.8 percent in December, The Associated Press reports. The period represented the second month in a row where the state's jobless rate dropped. The unemployment rate stood at 10 percent in November.
Of the jobs that were added in the Midwestern state in December, 2,200 were in the manufacturing, according to the media outlet. The sector created more new positions than any other during the month. Data provided by the Illinois Department of Employment Security indicates that the jobless rate decreased even though the number of jobs in the Midwestern state decreased by more than 4,000.
The new plant plans to implement World Class Manufacturing, which is a program designed to cut costs, boost worker productivity and provide a safer environment for employees. Last year, proposals suggested by plant employees resulted in more than 3,400 projects being executed, which could potentially yield annual savings of $32 million.