BELVIDERE – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich joined the Chrysler Group to celebrate the start of production of the all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber today at its Belvidere Assembly Plant. Along with the new vehicle, the plant is also launching an innovative manufacturing process that will provide the company the ability to make up to three models and test-build a fourth model on one assembly line. In January of 2005, Gov. Blagojevich announced almost $36 million in Opportunity Returns support that allowed the company’s Belvidere plant to undergo a $419 million major retooling that is adding a second shift and 1,000 new jobs to the regional economy. The state’s investment is part of the Governor’s Opportunity Returns program for the Northern Stateline region, his comprehensive, pro-active strategy for creating jobs and spurring economic growth across the region and throughout the state.
"By investing more than $400 million to prepare the Belvidere Assembly Plant for the 21st Century and beyond, the Chrysler Group is strongly demonstrating that the workforce and the business climate here in Illinois is a perfect combination. We will keep investing in companies that are investing in Illinois to continue creating more jobs and better opportunities for our working families. This is an important partnership with a first-class company whose automobiles are driven the world over, and I am hopeful that the Caliber will be yet another successful addition to the Chrysler family," Gov. Blagojevich said.
The Belvidere Assembly Plant is the first Chrysler Group manufacturing plant to use a body shop comprised entirely of robotic—free of hard or vehicle-specific tooling. The 780 robots in Belvidere's body shop can make necessary tool changes automatically, within a 45-second cycle time, giving the plant the flexibility to build the Dodge Caliber and three additional vehicles with no negative impact on production. This new process will both allow the company to vary production to better meet customers' preferences and make the changeover to next-generation models simple and cost-efficient.
"Gov. Blagojevich has been a valuable partner to business and labor in Illinois and the Belvidere Assembly Plant is a great example of that," said Tom LaSorda, President and CEO of the Chrysler Group. "Our investment has greatly increased the Belvidere plant’s flexibility, which is a key factor for success in this fast changing marketplace. This facility will be producing vehicles that will be available in almost 100 markets around the world."
In addition to the recent launch of the Dodge Caliber, the Belvidere Assembly Plant will also launch a second shift this spring, bringing total employment at the facility to about 2,650, as well as launch the production of another new model, the all-new 2007 Jeep® Compass.
In March of 2005, Gov. Blagojevich also announced approximately $6.5 million in Opportunity Returns support for three Chrysler Group suppliers that are allowing the companies to retool their facilities, train and expand their workforces and increase their competitiveness. The investments are helping to create more than 500 new jobs at Android Industries and Grupo Antolin in Belvidere and Johnson Controls, a Sycamore-based manufacturer.
Belvidere employees are working under a new workplace model that is being implemented throughout Chrysler Group's Manufacturing organization. In addition to extensive training, this new workplace model lets employees design their own workstations. It also fosters greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor. These changes provide a better work environment for employees and give increased support to assembly line team members.
Chrysler Group, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., is a unit of DaimlerChrysler, the world's fifth largest automaker. Its brands include Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge and feature some of the most recognizable vehicles like the Dodge Viper, Jeep Liberty and Chrysler PT Cruiser. For further information on DaimlerChrysler, please visit www.media.daimlerchrysler.com <http://www.media.daimlerchrysler.com/>.
"Due largely to its highly-skilled workforce, the Belvidere Assembly Plant is one of the most efficient Chrysler plants in North America. When the company decided to expand, that factor certainly tipped the scales in our favor. While that’s a great testament to the exceptional work ethic and great dedication of the Belvidere workers, it’s also a real sign that we are investing in the assets that are the most desirable to business and the most critical to fueling more widespread economic growth and opportunity throughout this state," DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.