Chrysler announces 1,250 new jobs for Kokomo, Tipton

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An Indiana automaker almost given up for dead a few years ago roared back to life Thursday in KokomoChrysler is spending close to $400 million and creating more than 1,000 new jobs.

Here's how it breaks down. The Kokomo transmission plants get 400 new jobs after new production lines are ready at the end of the year. In nearby Tipton, a new transmission plant will hire 850 people when it is up and running late next year.

Chrysler workers, who four years ago saw their jobs disappearing, didn't hide their happiness. Hundreds surrounded a stage full of Chrysler executives and state officials.

It was a rare scene as American workers gave their Italian CEO a standing ovation and UAW members crowded Republican Governor Mike Pence for a handshake or photograph and lots of laughter and big smiles. It was an extraordinary day indeed.

Bruce Reece said with a grin, "The auto industry is turning around. Sales are up and everything is looking good."

So good that Chrysler is investing $374 million, equipping its Kokomo plants, and never used a facility in nearby Tipton to manufacture new more fuel efficient transmissions.

With two kids in college and a wife who just lost her job, CJ Mount said he's grateful.

"These new transmissions we're getting in, it's gonna be the future. I think we have some good work coming ahead of us," he said.

And it's happening at a company that nearly went under. Don't forget it was less than four years ago that Chrysler was broke. The US automaker filed for bankruptcy.

"It was pretty bleak," admitted worker Brian Marcum.

CEO Sergio Marchionne called it a near fatal experience and praised workers for Chrysler's comeback.

"You have helped revive the company and set us on a new road, one with an unlimited horizon," he said.

The road back has already brought more than 2,000 new Chrysler jobs to Kokomo.

Joyce Colburn had been working as a waitress. "I wasn't making it." she said, "To get somewhere like this, especially at my age, I am very grateful."

So is the governor. Pence is touting 1,200 new jobs, and laying claim to the world's largest transmission manufacturing complex is a win for a state where a quarter million workers are still unemployed.

"People in Indiana are the best people in the world," Pence said confidently. "Chrysler figured that out. A whole lot of other people are going to figure that out too."

Chrysler's comeback and new jobs affect a huge swath of the state. Auto plants typically attract workers from 60 miles in each direction.

To help close the deal, the state is giving Chrysler almost $11.7 million in tax breaks and job training funds. Incentives the company won't receive, state officials say, until those jobs arrive.

The new machinery and tooling in Kokomo will be complete at the end of 2013. The Tipton plant is scheduled to be ready at the end of 2014.

These jobs are tied to new, more fuel efficient, eight- and nine-speed transmissions.

Sen. Joe Donnelly praised the announcement, saying that he pushed to save Chrysler when it went through a restructuring process in 2008 and 2009 and narrowly avoided liquidation.

"They said this day would never come," Donnelly said. "But we made the tough choices necessary to save Hoosier jobs, and now Chrysler is stronger in north central Indiana than they were before the auto rescue."

"Chrysler's future and the future of North Central Indiana are tied together, and that future has never looked brighter," said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight. "Today's announcement is a product of Mr. Marchionne's World Class Manufacturing approach that emphasizes quality in all aspects of operations. He has developed a partnership with the UAW, Chrysler as well as state and local officials to revitalize this company, and it shows. It's seen in the workers' pride on the factory floors and in the showrooms where sales of Chrysler automobiles outpace competitors."