Georgia was in hot competition with other states to woo Caterpillar into building its new factory in the Athens-Oconee area. But in the end, the "seamless package" of job training to be provide through Georgia's Quick Start program, proximity to the port of Savannah, and links with the counties and Athens Technical College gave Georgia the edge, Caterpillar Building Construction Projects Vice President Mary Bell said Friday.
Bell and other representatives of the heavy machinery manufacturer stood at the Capitol alongside local officials from Athens and Oconee counties as Gov. Deal announced the major economic development win for the state.
It's the largest manufacturing investment in Georgia since Kia built its Columbus plant in 2006, he said.
Athens-Clarke Mayor Nancy Denson predicted it will be "a benefit for generations to come."
"A project of this magnitude with a company of this quality does not come around often," she said.
The 265-acre factory facility will straddle the Oconee and Athens-Clarke border at the Orkin site on US 29 and Ga. 316. It will make excavators and bulldozers. About 40 percent of the machines will be exported, chiefly to South America and parts of Europe.
Oconee County Commission Chair Melvin Davis said that CAT suppliers will also locate in the area, meaning even more jobs and a more diversified tax base.
"The factory alone will have a "$65 million payroll when fully staffed," he said. "The company will become the largest private employer in Oconee County."
Caterpillar plans to hire locally and will recruit through the website www.jointeamcaterpillar.com.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for March and production will likely begin in 2013. The first excavators are scheduled to roll off the production line at the end of 2014 followed by bulldozers the next year.
"I compliment the climate here," said Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, "it is very conducive to adding manufacturing jobs."
He also mentioned CAT is pushing hard to convince voters to approve a one-penny sales tax this July that would be used to pay for road, rail and bridge improvements. "That was a consideration in coming to Georgia," he said, "we need infrastructure.
Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar also has Georgia manufacturing sites in Emerson, Thomasville, LaGrange and Toccoa.