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Progress continues for Victoria Caterpillar plant

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 18, 2010 at 5:18 a.m.
Updated Nov. 19, 2010 at 5:19 a.m.


CATERPILLAR BY THE NUMBERS:500: approximate Caterpillar sites worldwide

50: companies Caterpillar operates

225,000: approximate number of Caterpillar and Caterpillar dealer employees

3 million: approximate number of active Caterpillar machines and engines in use worldwide

Source: John Jones, site manager for Victoria Caterpillar plant

It was a process of elimination that led to Caterpillar choosing Victoria for its hydraulic excavator plant, said John Jones, the incoming plant's site manager. But, as the list shortened and the company visited sites, the city felt like home.

" . As we traveled here, it became very apparent that there was something outstanding about this community, outstanding about the region," Jones said. "And I told (a friend) the more I came here, the more we grew to know this place, the more we grew to love the place."

Jones presented a company overview and update on Caterpillar's local plant Thursday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s annual meeting.

The Victoria site will be at about 600,000 square feet, Jones said, although that fluctuates as the planning process continues. It will serve as an assembly, logistics and test facility, he said, and might eventually play home to a distribution center that would allow Caterpillar to ship machinery across the country.

Although he couldn't divulge exact numbers, Jones called it a "high-volume site" with an output significantly higher than anything the company has manufactured in North America.

"So this is a big plant," he said. "It is a very, very large-scale operation."

Construction is tentatively slated to begin in February, but Caterpillar has not yet chosen a contractor. The company has narrowed it down to a shorter list - a mix of national, regional and local companies - and anticipates a decision soon.

Caterpillar's Victoria site, a $120 million investment, will create more than 500 new positions during its first phase, said Dale Fowler, the economic development corporation's president.

Various incentives went into drawing the company in, including a 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement, a 320-acre site at the Lone Tree Business Center and $2 million the company can use toward developing infrastructure.

Such incentives are necessary because other cities looking to draw Caterpillar in can - and did - offer such benefits.

"Folks, if we want to play in the game, we're gonna have to compete," he said.

Bringing Caterpillar to Victoria was an accomplishment, but the development corporation's work isn't over yet, said Adrian Cannady, the organization's vice president of marketing.

Now is the time to search out suppliers considering locating in Texas and aggressively market Victoria to them, he said. The organization will also work to make sure local companies have the opportunity to bid on Caterpillar projects and the like.

The development corporation is also on the lookout for another industrial park, a "shovel-ready site" available for companies looking for a new home. After all, the method already proved successful once.

"If it works, do it again," he said.

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