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Auto rebound bittersweet in auto towns left behind

Keith McQueen has finally moved on.

Three years after taking a buyout from Chrysler when the automaker shut down its stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, McQueen no longer stews about losing a job he loved.

"It has been 3 or 4 years now, so I have already run the gamut of being very angry, very bitter to now, where I'm at a point where you have to move on with your life and I would hope everyone else is like that as well," said McQueen.

In reality, not everyone has moved on.

(Read More: Chrysler profit growth slows due to costs)

Four years after the auto industry bottomed out with General Motors and Chrysler going bankrupt, those automakers and the industry as a whole is roaring again.

Great news in places like Kansas City, Toledo and suburban Detroit where auto plants that survived the industry collapse are now adding jobs and shifts to keep up with surging demand.

"My mother is getting a pension from Chrysler, so I want them to do well," said McQueen. "But I would be lying to you if I didn't say I was a little jealous."

Former Auto Towns Still Adjusting

When chrysler left Twinsburg, it took 1,260 jobs and the financial engine for the small town of 18,000.

The city lost 12 percent of its annual revenue, $2.2 Million.

"It's obviously a significant impact and it gets you not only in the wallet," said Larry Finch, Twinsburg Director of Development & Planning. "You feel for the employees for their loss of income and for their ability to keep their families together because many had to relocate and split up."

In fact, many who worked in Chrysler's Twinsburg plant were offered jobs at other Chrysler facilities in the midwest. That included McQueen, who opted not to leave his family.

(Read More: Chrysler fires up engine production, adds 1,250 jobs)

Those who stayed said Twinsburg and surrounding cities have adjusted to losing the largest supplier of jobs.

To make up for the lost revenue related to the Chrysler plant, the city's residents voted to raise their income tax by a quarter of a percent. Meanwhile, the city cut back on some services in order to limit expenses.

"It made us enter a period of austerity," said Finch.

Auto Jobs Not Likely to Return

Not long after Chrysler went through bankruptcy in 2009 and decided to shut down 5 plants including the one in Twinsburg, the automaker started a steady and gradual expansion.

As auto sales picked up, the company added shifts at plants in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. All together, Chrysler has hired more than 8,200 people.

(Read More: Chrysler is showdown with Feds over jeep recall)

Now, with the company's North American plants running close to capacity, it raised the question: Would Chrysler ever go back to Twinsburg with a new plant?

Probably not.

Thomas Klier, who has spent years analysing the auto industry for the Federal Reserve Chicago office said the Big 3 (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) are unlikely to add new plants anytime soon.

"They [domestic automakers] are in a pretty good situation right now. As they ramp up production they will hire additional workers in their plants but they're not going to build new plants for the foreseeable future."

A Chrysler Jeep sign is seen in front of a dealership in Hollywood, Florida.
Getty Images
A Chrysler Jeep sign is seen in front of a dealership in Hollywood, Florida.

Hope Amid the Ruins

When you drive by the old Chrysler plant in Twinsburg, all that remains is an abandoned office building and piles of concrete rubble.

Darlene Dandridge of Twinsburg called it a daily reminder of what once stood there. "I could always look out my back door and see Chrysler, but it's not there now and it is devastating to me at times."

Mel Aurbach of Twinsburg agreed. "It was a big loss," he said.

A portion of the site has already been re-developed with a new business building a facility and moving in.

(Read More: Why Chrysler's makeover is far from finished)

There are other companies looking to do the same thing. Encouraging news in a city that has succeeded in bringing in new jobs to offset those lost when Chrysler left town.

For the most part, they don't pay as much as Chrysler did, but it's something.

Even Keith McQueen has adjusted to a new career that pays less. He's started a company that cleans business offices.

"Within a couple of years I will be at that Chrysler type of money, but more than that if my son or daughter want to take over I can hand it over to them."

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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