In sixty days, the Chrysler Corporation will emerge from bankruptcy under new management. This new management will consist of a tripartite made up of our federal government, a foreign automaker and the United Auto Workers of America. Meaning that the future of Chrysler and the City of Belvidere will lie in the hands of individuals whom hold no allegiance to Chrysler or to our community. (Save those who work at the Belvidere plant). For the city leaders of Belvidere this isn’t a wakeup call it should be an alarm ringing loudly.
The Belvidere Chrysler plant has long been depended upon for the jobs that have kept Belvidere working. Sadly, the day is coming when that dependence will end. When it does many citizens of Belvidere will be forced to seek work elsewhere. Many of them will eventually leave Belvidere. The second and third order affects that this exodus of citizens will have on our community will be devastating. City leaders must begin work on creating and implementing an industrial development plan that will bring jobs to Belvidere. Now! Before it is too late.
A current industrial development plan, one based on Boone County’s agricultural heritage and the new uses economy, has been in place since 1999, but it has shown little promise. After ten years and $2 million this plan has failed to live up to its potential.
Today, a new industrial development plan is needed one that will bring jobs to Belvidere before Chrysler closes its doors. The question is: What industry will provide Belvidere with enough jobs to replace those lost by Chrysler’s closing?
The answer is – the Defense industry. Why the Defense industry? The Defense industry is a trillion dollar a year industry that employs 2.5 million people. Future employment projections show that employment in the Defense industry will grow at a rate of 6% annually over the next ten years. By 2020, more than 3.5 million Americans will be employed in the Defense industry and expenditures will top $2 trillion a year. And, the Defense industry uses products that are made with manufacturing processes using advanced technology; metallurgy, electronics, robotics, biometrics… The type of high skilled jobs that are sustainable and provide a livable wage. Its potential for job growth is immense and, unlike the automotive industry which is losing jobs, and the agricultural industry which has grown stagnate, the Defense industry is one of the few industries that are creating jobs.
It is said that “as goes Chrysler so goes Belvidere.” As the once mighty Chrysler Corporation dies a slow and painful death will our hopes and dreams for the future of our community die with it? They will unless something is done now to prevent that from happening.
Lt Col Jim Wise, a former alderman in Belvidere is currently serving an active duty tour at the Pentagon and working on a Masters of Public Administration.
Jim Wise, 215 West Boone Street, Belvidere, IL 61008 815-904-9576 firstname.lastname@example.org