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Caterpillar CEO: We Want To Stay in Peoria

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Although recent reports hint that Caterpillar Inc.'s chief executive is contemplating moving the manufacturer's headquarters outside Illinois, Cat Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman says that’s not true.

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Photo: Tudor Van Hampton for ENR
Peoria, Ill., became the official home of Caterpillar after Calif.-based Holt Tractor Co. and C.L. Best Tractor Co. merged in 1925.
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"I want to stay here," says Oberhelman in a March 21 letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), in which the Woodstock, Ill., native admits being "wined and dined" by other state governors trying to lure Cat to move its longtime headquarters in Peoria, Ill.

"You've always been honest with me, and that's why I want you to know about these letters," Oberhelman says to Quinn. "I'm not sending them to you as a threat that Caterpillar is leaving Illinois…I'd like to invest more here…but as the leader of this business, I have to do what's right for Caterpillar."

Oberhelman goes on to say that "the direction that this state is headed in is not favorable for business, and I'd like to work with you to change that."

Caterpillar executives are chiefly concerned about lawmakers’ ability to balance the state budget, reduce state spending, create new workers' compensation reform and renew a research-and-development tax credit. But so far, Cat has no plans to move.

"Again, we have not said we are looking to relocate," Jim Dugan, Caterpillar spokesman, told ENR in an e-mail exchange. "We are looking to help Illinois to become more competitive for all businesses."

Peoria has been home to Caterpillar for more than 75 years. Two Calif.-based machinery businesses, Holt Tractor Co. and C.L. Best Tractor Co., merged in 1925, forming the Caterpillar Tractor Co.

Prior to the merger, in 1909, Holt bought the Colean Manufacturing Co., located in East Peoria, and began building tractors there. The East Peoria plant is still Cat's primary tractor facility.

In an exclusive interview last month, Oberhelman stressed to ENR the importance of the company's home base in Illinois as a center of tens of thousands of American jobs while the company continues to export earthmoving machines overseas.

"My objective and job as chairman and CEO of this company is to make sure that we are in every one of those countries where those jobs are going on so we can make tractors in East Peoria, Ill., that we export to Brazil or China or Africa or wherever," said Oberhelman.

Gov. Quinn has reviewed the letter and plans to visit Peoria and confer with Oberhelman on April 5, says George Sweeney, a spokesman for the governor.

He adds: "This shows kind of the direct dialogue that the governor has between business leaders throughout the state."

 

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