Central Illinois Vying For New CAT Plant

By Marc Strauss

December 1, 2011 Updated Dec 2, 2011 at 9:05 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. --  Caterpillar is planning to relocate one of its Japanese production plants.  But what are the chances that it could wind up in central Illinois?  And how many jobs would it create?

At a time when American jobs are being shipped overseas Caterpillar has a plan to do the reverse.

"The company has made a strategic decision to move some of its current production in Japan to North America," said caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan.  "Well over 1,000 jobs will come with what will be a new facility that will make small track type tractors and mini excavators."

But exactly where that will happen is still up in the air.  Dugan says the company is evaluating multiple sites.  The old engine production facility in Mossville could potentially house such an operation and Dugan says Caterpillar has other plants that might fit the criteria.

"We won't get into the specifics of whose in or whose out but we do know that Illinois, and even central Illinois, has confirmed that they have submitted a proposal," said Dugan.

Over a dozen states have shown interest in the new Caterpillar plant, which the company hopes to have up and running in late 2013.

Dugan says Illinois could enhance its position by becoming what he called more "business friendly" and cited this week's decision by the state legislature not to extend a tax credit for research and development.

Vickie Clark, president of the Economic Development Council of Central Illinois, says many states have become very competitive in luring business in their direction.

"Companies need to be able to do research and development so that they can grow their business," said Clark.  "Companies need to be able to have lower taxes so that they can have a stronger profit because that they can hire more people to grow their business."

Caterpillar hopes to announce the location of the new plant in about 6 weeks.