Third Shift Starts

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Sunday was the first night on the job for third shift workers at the Belvidere Chrysler plant. More than 1,000 workers clocked in at 11 p.m. That's a week earlier than expected. This is the first time in the plant's 41-year history that a third shift is in production.

The Belvidere Chrysler plant began production of a second shift on March 13, 2006. At that time production began on the Dodge Caliber. Before that the Belvidere plant was responsible for production of the Dodge Neon. That line started in November 2003 and ended in 2005.

Chrysler's assembly plant in Belvidere is now manufacturing cars and jobs 24 hours a day. The third shift adds an extra $188 million in annual wages to the stateline.

"Not all of the employees live in Belvidere, or even Boone County for that matter, so the economic impact is much greater than just the city of Belvidere," said Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton.

Brereton says Chrysler's expansion is putting northern Illinois on the map.

"That sends a signal and is an indicator to other corporate offices that hopefully are doing some site selection process to say if Belvidere was a good investment for Chrysler to invest in, perhaps we should take a closer look to see what it has to offer to us," Brereton said.

The expansion also sent a signal to job seekers. It's estimated that thousands of people applied for jobs at the plant. Many of them have been waiting since May to find out if they're hired.

"The Chrysler job sounded like an ideal opportunity, and you kind of put your life on hold waiting for the process. I passed up other job offers waiting for the Chrysler job, and it's frustrating."

The applicant quoted did not want to be identified. He waited a month to hear back from Chrysler. He never did. Chrysler is not hiring any more employees, but several Chrysler suppliers are still accepting applications.