Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Starting a business? Try Belvidere, new ranking suggests

By Audrey Eads
Staff writer Posted May. 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm Updated May 3, 2016 at 4:35 PM

If you’re planning to start a business in Illinois, Belvidere is one of the best places to be, according to a new study by WalletHub.
Belvidere was ranked sixth in Illinois of the best small cities to start a business.

Each of the 1,268 small-size cities tested in the WalletHub study was analyzed for business friendliness using a set of 15 key metrics ranging from “average growth in number of small businesses” to “office-space affordability.”

Here’s how Belvidere stacked up:
6: Illinois rank (after North Chicago, Carbondale, Northbrook, Decatur and Round Lake Beach, respectively)
241: Overall rank
38.97: Total score out of 50
193: Business environment rank
392: Business costs rank
908: Access-to-resources rank
For the full study:

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Belvidere Chrysler plant to build Jeep Cherokee, job growth anticipated


By Brian Leaf
Staff writer

Posted May 3, 2016 at 10:05 AM
Updated May 3, 2016 at 6:07 PM

BELVIDERE — Now that the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles assembly plant here has landed the top-selling Jeep Cherokee line, Belvidere officials are anticipating job growth at the plant and from new parts suppliers moving to the city.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said Monday that the Cherokee line will be produced in Belvidere, ending months of speculation about where the assembly plant that employs more than 4,000 workers fit into the company's worldwide production plan.
"The new Cherokee in Belvidere will fill out the plant completely," Marchionne said in a story by The Associated Press from Turin, Italy, the headquarters of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA.
"We need to produce over 300,000 Cherokees and that is what the plant will produce."
FCA has been planning to shake up production at its plants around the globe, including in Belvidere, where it makes the Dodge Dart, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot. Last week, during a call with analysts, Marchionne said Compass and Patriot production would move to Mexico. FCA also plans to phase out the compact Dart so it can focus production on larger vehicles. FCA believes that the fall in petroleum prices the past 18 months is permanent and that trucks and SUVs represent a growth market.
Rumors that the Cherokee was headed to Belvidere from Toledo, Ohio, persisted. But until Monday, FCA had not said what the Belvidere assembly plant and three shifts of workers would be making. That they'll be making Jeep Cherokees, which last year topped 220,000 sales, is economic icing at City Hall.

The bestselling vehicle among the Jeep brand in 2015 was the Cherokee with 220,260 units sold - See more at:

The bestselling vehicle among the Jeep brand in 2015 was the Cherokee with 220,260 units sold - See more at:

"We’re happy to hear that," Mayor Mike Chamberlain said. "As long as they’re at full production I don’t care what they’re making out there."
Chamberlain said that Cherokee assembly in Belvidere will likely mean job growth for the region.
"We’ve had some inquiries about building additional facilities that would hire 300 to 500 workers, but none of those deals have come to fruition," he said. "But now with the announcement, the real work starts."

Chamberlain said Cherokee production may require more employees at the auto plant. He said the announcement could mean 500 to 1,000 new jobs that would likely be filled by people from throughout the region.

He said that he hopes commuters to the plant will consider moving to Belvidere, or other parts of the region, which needs new residents to reverse a shrinking tax base.
"We're all fighting the same battle," he said.
Monday's announcement will bring a sigh of relief to some who have seen the rise and fall and rise again of production at the plant, but continued to fear that FCA was no longer committed to Belvidere, said Jarid Funderburg.
"People get nervous," said Funderburg, executive director of Growth Dimensions, an economic development agency for Belvidere and Boone County. He called the Cherokee an "awesome fit" for Belvidere. "I have always been very confident this plant will continue to operate because of its strength and technical innovation, and workforce.
"My understanding is there are only three plants that can handle the platform for the Cherokee, when it comes to assembly."

Brian Leaf: 815-987-1343;; @b_leaf

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