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Caterpillar CEO: Northeast Georgia Climate 'Very Conducive to Adding Manufacturing Jobs'

It's the largest manufacturing investment in Georgia since Kia built its Columbus plant in 2006, Gov. Nathan Deal said at the Georgia State Capitol on Friday.

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.

Melissa Steele February 18, 2012 at 02:15 PM
This is VERY exciting news for our community! Let's hope that our new friends also hire locally during the construction phase! We have all the local contractors they could possibly need to complete their project, therefore bringing economic benefits from the day they break ground! Is this concept being presented to them as well? Let's make sure local contractors are allowed to bid on the construction phase!
Wolfgang Hauke February 18, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I saw a sequence on Fox News about Caterpillar bringing jobs back to the USA. A remark about education and skilled workers struck a nerve. Here are some of my observations: I came from Germany in 1965. The company I worked for was looking for table saw operators. I suggested that we train some fellows. Their answer: well, as soon as they are trained they will leave. I explained to them that where I came from a fellow who completed his apprenticeship was expected to leave. That is why they are called journeymen. A few years later I met a man who had a custom furniture shop in Philadelphia. He told me that he used to go to the docks where the ships arrived to find skilled cabinetmakers. His problem: the ships don’t come anymore. That shop is now long closed and forgotten. A couple of years back somewhere in the Midwest a congressman went to visit a machine shop. He was prepared to hear complaints about business being bad. Instead he was told that the problem was finding skilled machinists. The shop owner explained that he could train machine operators in a few weeks, but it takes 3 to 4 years to train a machinist. For two centuries we relied on immigrants from Europe for skilled labor. Isn’t it time for industry to step up to the plate and come up with a training system similar to that of the European Gilds?

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